The Life, Liberty, and Happiness Survey

The Role Of Labor & Employment in America's Well-Being

The effects of unemployment run much deeper than money, affecting Americans’ outlook on the future

In a new report, to coincide with Labor Day, the ECU Center for Research finds the effects of unemployment run much deeper than money, affecting Americans’ outlook on the future, social connectedness and relationships with others, and sense of self-worth, confidence, and satisfaction with life. The nation’s current and near-historic low unemployment rate of 3.9% is, therefore, not only good news for the economy, but also for the personal well-being of millions of Americans. Find the full report here.

August 30, 2018 — GREENVILLE, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Data from the Life, Liberty, and Happiness survey conducted by East Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research has confirmed, as we approach the Labor Day weekend, that employment plays a key role in Americans’ perceptions of personal well-being.

“The effects of unemployment run much deeper than money, affecting Americans’ outlook on the future, social connectedness and relationships with others, and sense of self-worth, confidence and satisfaction with life,” said Dr. Peter Francia, director of the ECU Center for Survey Research. “The nation’s current and near-historic low unemployment rate is, therefore, not only good news for the economy, but also for the personal well-being of millions of Americans.” The ECU Life, Liberty and Happiness Project is a nationwide survey of more than 1,100 Americans conducted in May and June by the Center for Survey Research at ECU using mail, internet and phone surveys to reach adults across the country. Results are weighted to be representative of the U.S. population.

Survey findings include:

  • 42 percent of employed Americans believe they will live longer than their parents, compared to 27 percent among the unemployed.
  • 41 percent of employed Americans report feeling isolated, compared to 68 percent among the unemployed.
  • Only 15 percent of unemployed Americans report being satisfied with their lives, compared to 35 percent of employed Americans.
  • 67 percent of Americans living in union households own their homes, compared to 52 percent in non-union households.

The project’s purpose is to highlight shared experiences among Americans as well as identify differences.

The new report shows:

  • The employed are significantly more likely than the unemployed to be optimistic about future life expectancy and the value of hard work.
  • The unemployed are significantly more likely than the employed and others to lack companionship, to feel left out and to feel isolated from others.
  • The employed are significantly more likely than the unemployed to express satisfaction with their lives and to answer that they are able to cope with their problems.
  • The unemployed are also more likely than the employed and others to be depressed, pessimistic about the future, and to score lower on other items related to personal well-being.
  • Americans living in union households are more likely to report owning their homes than other Americans.
  • Housing affordability is less likely to be a challenge for Americans living in union households than other Americans.
  • Americans who live in union households are more satisfied with their financial situation than other Americans.

Excerpts from the VALUE OF LABOR AND VALUING LABOR report

Americans who are employed (defined as those who report being self-employed, or employed for salary or wages, full-time or part-time) are more likely to report optimism about perceived future life expectancy than those who are unemployed (defined as those who report being out of work)
Specifically, the survey asked respondents the following question, “Do you think people your age will live longer, the same, or shorter lives than their parents?” Those unemployed are less likely (27%) to believe that people of their age will live longer lives than their parents when compared to those who are employed (42%). The third reported category below, “not in the workforce,” includes students, homemakers, and retired individuals. Again, those who are unemployed are significantly less optimistic about future life expectancy than those who are students, homemakers, or retirees.

The nation’s current and near-historic low unemployment rate is, therefore, not only good news for the economy, but also for the personal well-being of millions of Americans...

Those unemployed are also more pessimistic than others about the rewards of hard work
The survey asked, “Which statement about success in the United States comes closer to your own views, even if neither is exactly right: Most people can succeed if they are willing to work hard, or hard work is no guarantee of success for most people?” Only about half of those unemployed (50%) answered that most people can succeed through hard work compared to two-thirds of those employed (66%) and two-thirds who are not in the workforce, such as students, homemakers, and retirees (67%).

Those unemployed are more likely to report experiencing some degree of social disconnectedness than other Americans
Unemployed Americans were significantly more likely than the employed to answer “some of the time” or “often” to the socially disconnected items. For the question concerning lack of companionship, 65% of the unemployed answered “some of the time” or “often” compared to 44% of the employed. Likewise, solid majorities of the unemployed answered “some of the time” or “often” to feeling left out (64%) and isolated from others (68%). By comparison, less than half of the employed
reported that they “some of the time” or “often” feel left out (43%) or feel isolated from others (41%).

Those who are employed evaluate themselves and their lives more positively than the unemployed
The survey asked several questions about core self-evaluations, which measure an individual’s thoughts about themselves, including their self-satisfaction, control over their lives, and selfconfidence (shown in the table below). Those who are employed consistently rate their abilities and lives more positively than those who are unemployed. Specifically, the employed are more likely than the unemployed to strongly agree that they are satisfied with themselves (44% to 23%) and their lives (35% to 15%). They are also more confident than the unemployed that they can achieve success (31%
to 14%) and are more confident in their abilities to cope with their own problems (48% to 22%).

 

The survey report is available here.
The initial report on the Life, Liberty, and Happiness survey, released in July, showed that a majority of Americans are satisfied with their lives, that only 23 percent trust the media, and that 1 in 10 adults live in a home with unsecured and loaded firearms. That report is available here.