Work as Foraging: A Smartphone Study of Job Search and Employment after Prison


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

The past several decades have seen a decline in employment rates and labor force participation, particularly among low-skilled, minority men living in poor areas. As low-skill jobs disappear from poor places, how do marginalized job seekers navigate this landscape? Using over 8,000 daily measures of search and work collected from smartphones distributed to 133 men recently released from prison, this article presents the concept of work as foraging, where people work a variety of extremely precarious opportunities that span across job types. Sequence analysis methods describe distinct patterns of search and work that unfold over time, where most people cease their search efforts after the first month and maintain a state of very irregular and varied work. Although there is substantial heterogeneity in patterns, foraging is a common strategy of survival work.

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