Recession Now, Greater Job Satisfaction Later

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you felt bad for those who graduated between 2007 and 2009 because they were entering the real world during a recession — save that sympathy.

New research from Emory University's Business School suggests that instead of pitying college graduates who got that diploma during a recession, people should be jealous of them. That's because college grads who graduate during a bad economic times typically end up with greater job satisfaction and more fulfillment than those who may have had an easier time finding a job.

The new findings were authored by Emily Bianchi, assistant professor of organization and management at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. Bianchi looked at data from two government-run surveys and the results showed people who earned their degrees during downturns in the economy were typically more satisfied with their current jobs than those who first looked for work during good economic times.

Bianchi looked at existing surveys of U.S. graduates who received degrees between 1974 and 2011 and also conducted her own survey of 247 working adults with graduate degrees. Perhaps just as interestingly as recession graduates being happier with their jobs than those who earned their degree during good times, the results also show those people typically have higher job satisfaction throughout their adult life, not just with their first job.

Bianchi says that while past research has shown that job satisfaction remains pretty steady throughout adulthood, which typically has been chalked up to personality traits of workers. However, Bianchi thinks her research shows that satisfaction may have more to do with early workforce experience.

"Much in the way that personality shapes how people perceive and respond to their work environments, early-career environmental conditions appear to similarly influence how they make sense of and evaluate their jobs," she said

While the research may surprise some, Bianchi said she wasn't shocked by the outcome. It's true recession graduates may earn less money, and their first jobs may not be ideal, but they typically are more grateful for what they have. Bianchi also argues the conclusion is consistent with psychological research that says just the right amount of adversity is associated with greater happiness.