Job loss at mid-life: Managers and executives face the "new risk economy"

Ruby Mendenhall, Ariel Kalil, Laurel J. Spindel, Cassandra M.D. Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use a lifecourse framework to examine how the "new risk economy" has left middle-age professionals, managers and executives more vulnerable to job loss and unemployment despite high levels of human capital. Using in-depth qualitative data from 77 recently-unemployed white-collar workers, we examine perceptions of macro-economic forces and their implications for respondents' career-recovery plans and expectations for their own and their children's future career pathways. We find that most respondents attributed their job loss to factors associated with globalization and used coping strategies that involved adapting a "free-agent" mentality in the face of declining employer loyalty and deprofessionalization to manage perceptions of age bias. Respondents also make mastering the "new risk economy" a developmental goal for themselves and their children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-210
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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