Dissertation Defense: Patterns of Precarity in Older Workers: A Latent Profile Approach

Friday, September 22, 2023 10 a.m. to noon

Announcing the Final Examination of Alissa Gebben for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Over the past three decades, the workforce has become more age-diverse, leading organizations to recognize the importance of supporting the well-being, motivation, health, and productivity of older workers. Previous research has highlighted the challenges faced by older workers, including ageism, health declines, financial constraints on retirement, and caregiving responsibilities. However, the literature often treats older workers as a homogeneous group, neglecting the significant heterogeneity within this population. This study addressed this gap by adopting a person-centered approach to investigate the diverse experiences of older workers. By leveraging the Psychology of Working Theory (PWT) as a conceptual framework, this study examined how different combinations of working conditions (i.e., job insecurity, income inadequacy, lack of work protections, and vulnerability to mistreatment) relate to psychological constructs and work-related outcomes among older workers. Data were collected from 549 workers over the age of 50 (M=59.24, SD=5.85) within the United States and analyzed using latent profile analysis. The results identified four distinct profiles of older workers: Unprecarious, Bridge Workers, Detached, and Precarious. The profiles were qualitatively and quantitatively different, with the Unprecarious profile characterized by low levels of all indicator variables, and the Precarious profile characterized by high levels on all indicator variables. Detached participants reported feeling stuck in their jobs, and Bridge Workers reported high income inadequacy and feeling unprotected at work, but low job insecurity and vulnerability to mistreatment. Unprecarious participants reported the highest levels of need satisfaction, well-being, and life satisfaction, and the Precarious participants reported the lowest levels on all outcomes, with the Bridge Workers and Detached participants in between.

Overall, this study sheds light on the heterogeneity within the older worker population and highlights the importance of considering various combinations of working conditions in understanding their experiences, thus advancing our understanding of this diverse segment of the workforce. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Committee in Charge
Committee Chair: Dr. Barbara Fritzsche
Department Committee Member: Dr. Steve Jex
Department Committee Member: Dr. Mindy Shoss
Outside Committee Member: Dr. Valerie Sims

Obtain virtual location link by contacting committee chair or doctoral student.

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Graduate Industrial and Organizational Psychology defense Dissertation