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Striving to Work


Using data from the 2011–2015 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, this study improves upon standard United States labor force measures to create three new measures which better capture the range of activities and attitudes that signal, at the individual level, an interest in work. When comparing the traditional employment-to-population ratio and the labor force participation rate with these new ‘striving to work’ measures, we find stark racial differences across measures. Hispanics have slightly higher odds of being employed or in the labor force than non-Hispanic whites, yet have similar odds of striving to work. Other vulnerable populations, including non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic persons of other non-white races, females, and persons with disabilities, have significantly lower odds of participation in any of the five measures, compared to their comparison groups and controlling for other covariates. Policy implications are discussed.

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Funding for this article was provided by the Employment Policy and Measurement Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, which is funded by the Administration for Community Living’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), under Cooperative Agreement 90RT5037-01-00. The contents do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR and are not endorsed by the federal government (Edgar, 75.620 [b]). The authors are solely responsible for their opinions and any errors or omissions.

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Correspondence to Debra L. Brucker.

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Brucker, D.L., Rollins, N.G. & Houtenville, A.J. Striving to Work. Soc Indic Res 139, 541–558 (2018).

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  • Employment
  • Labor force participation
  • Work