What are We Working For? Comparing the Importance of Job Features for Job Satisfaction over the Career Span

Abstract

This study examines the impact, relative importance, and unique predictive validity of changes in a host of job features and other relevant factors on job satisfaction over a 35-year period using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth cohort (12,686 respondents). The design of our analysis eliminated of the impact of established between-person correlates of job satisfaction (e.g., personality, cognitive ability), thereby providing for direct examination of within-person change in the focal variables. Results using a first-difference regression and a relative weights analysis revealed that changes in intrinsic, social, and extrinsic features corresponded to changes in satisfaction, but with differing magnitudes. Specific features (e.g., different dimensions of the Job Characteristics Model) generally were unique predictors when all variables were considered. Findings regarding the importance of various features substantially deviate from employees’ reports about contributors to job satisfaction and, in some cases, also differ from findings drawn from cross-sectional data.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Mottaz referred to these as “organizational” rewards, but we felt the label “extrinsic” is more consistent with the job satisfaction literature.

  2. 2.

    From 1979 to 2000, the NLSY79 provided 1970 occupation classification codes which could be linked to the Hodge-Siegel-Rossi scores. In 2002, the NLSY79 changed how it classified occupations to the updated 2000 occupation classification codes. We used the crosswalk provided by Frederick and Hauser (2010) to classify prestige with the 2000 classification system and the updated Nakao and Treas (1994) system based on Hodge-Siegel-Rossi scores.

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Correspondence to Seth A. Kaplan.

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Kaplan, S.A., Winslow, C.J. & Luchman, J.N. What are We Working For? Comparing the Importance of Job Features for Job Satisfaction over the Career Span. Soc Indic Res 148, 1021–1037 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-019-02231-8

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Keywords

  • Job satisfaction
  • Job characteristics
  • Longitudinal
  • Within-person