ASK AND YOU SHALL (NOT) RECEIVE: A STUDY OF SOCIAL NETWORK CONTACTS AND EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE
Trimble, Lindsey Blair
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A growing body of literature identifies social network contacts as playing an integral part in linking job seekers with jobs. Most research in this area focuses on people after they have found work with the help of their contacts. Scholars are increasingly recognizing this approach is problematic because it cannot reveal anything about job seekers who are unable to find work with the help of their contacts or the reasons they are unsuccessful. To address these problems, I study social network contact use, but from the perspective of contacts rather than job seekers. I use survey data I collected from a random sample of 577 Washington state adults, most of whom were recently asked to provide help with someone's job search. In the first analysis, I examine the factors that affect whether contacts help job seekers with their search and whether job seekers receive employment offers as a result of social networking. I find that contacts' resources, the strength of the relationship between contacts and job seekers, and job seekers' characteristics affect both outcomes. In the second analysis, I concentrate on homophily between contacts and job seekers. I find that the vast majority of job seekers turn to same sex or race contacts for help with their job search, but not similarly aged or educated contacts. Analyses show that the effect of homophily on contacts' provision of help and job seekers' receipt of an offer are complex and inconsistent. The third part of my dissertation examines how contacts' residence in either an urban or rural community affects their likelihood of providing help with a job search. I find that geographic context matters; job seekers who ask rural contacts for help with their job search are less successful than job seekers who rely on urban contacts. By differentiating between job seekers who successfully and unsuccessfully use social network contacts for their job searches, my dissertation offers new empirical evidence that can help scholars identify the mechanisms whereby social network use in the job attainment process works and labor market inequality is perpetuated.