Persistent employment disadvantage

Berthoud, R. & Blekesaune, M. (2007) Department for Work and Pensions, Research Report No 416. ISBN: 978 1 84712 158 5 [ONS LS]

Other information:

Are members of certain social groups more persistently out of employment than other groups? Persistence is here interpreted as ‘long lasting’ and is studied at two levels:

At the level of society: employment disadvantage is seen to be persistent if there has been no improvement in the employment position of the group under consideration (relative to others) over several years and decades.

At the level of individuals: employment disadvantage is seen to be persistent if individual members of the group experiencing low employment rates are also less likely to move into employment later on, from one decade to the next.

The society level analysis uses a series of cross-sectional analyses of the General Household Survey (GHS) over a 30-year period from 1973 to 2003. The individual level analysis uses the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Longitudinal Study (LS) which links individual level data from the Censuses of 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001. The analysis includes all people from 20 to 59 years of age.

The social groups being compared were defined by age, sex and motherhood, disability, ethnicity, and religion. A distinction is made between employment gaps and employment penalties. Gaps refer to crude differences between the social groups being compared. Penalties refer to differences that can not be accounted for by observed characteristics such as age composition, education level, family composition and local unemployment rates. Penalties include unmeasured characteristics such as discrimination, aspiration and constraints (e.g. child care). We are not able to distinguish between these factors. A separate analysis distinguishes between three forms of non-employment: unemployment, permanent sickness and other reasons.

Employment was defined as any hours of work (the ONS LS) and 16 hours or more per week (the GHS). The difference (analysed separately) largely affects estimates of employment penalties of women and mothers. Some differences between the two parts of the research also arose from other data characteristics such as sample size (i.e. investigating small groups), available variables (e.g. religion), definitions of social groups (e.g. disability), and consistency in question forms (e.g. employment). Thus, the two parts of the research were complementary and all major conclusions are (as far as the data allow) supported by both parts of the research.

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Output from project: 20094


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