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Trajectories of job search and wellbeing among reentering individuals

Award Information

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $25,000)

This grant is funded under NIJs 2013 Ph.D. Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) Program, which provides awards to accredited academic universities that offer research-based doctoral degrees in disciplines relevant to NIJs mission. The proposed project uses advances in smartphone technology to study job searching and employment and emotional well-being among individuals recently released from prison. The projects three broad aims are: to contribute a better understanding of actual searching and employment experiences at reentry; to experimentally test whether assignment to a peer-based forum for social support and job leads via smartphones improves wellbeing, search persistence, and employment; and to compare smartphone data collection methods with traditional approaches among disadvantaged, hard-to-reach groups. Participants were recruited from the Newark, New Jersey Parole Board using a complete census of all newly released parolees. Individuals are eligible to participate if they are male, recently released from prison (within the last 45 days), are not gang-identified or sex offenders, and are searching for work. A total of 156 participants were enrolled in the project between April 2012 and April 2013. Participants are randomly assigned to one of three groups: 1) smartphone group with peer-based application for job leads, 2) smartphone group with individual-based application for job leads, and 3) interview group. Once enrolled, participants are followed for three months. Self-report and behavioral information collected via smartphones will be used to provide a detailed description of job search and work experiences at reentry. The associations between emotional wellbeing, social contacts and support, and mobility patterns and how they relate with the key outcomes of searching and working will be examined. Mobility patterns and spatial dislocation will be assessed to observe how they are associated with successful job searching. Intensive longitudinal data analysis (ILD) methods will be used to examine the associations among the covariates and main outcomes over time. The key dependent and covariate measures - searching, working, emotional wellbeing, social contacts and support, and geographic mobility patterns - will also be analyzed with recidivism data on parole violations, arrests, convictions, and incarcerations. Recidivism measures are collected 6 months after participants complete the project. Mean differences between the treatment group (peer-based forum) and control group (individual based texts) will be tested to determine whether peer-based support and information improves emotional wellbeing, search persistence, and employment. An analysis will be conducted to examine the effectiveness of collecting information via smartphones compared to interview methods. The findings will contribute greater knowledge about the role of emotional wellbeing, social support and contacts, and geographic mobility for search persistence and finding work. The results will provide new knowledge and scholarship on the factors that promote job searching and employment not only for academic audiences, but also in order to inform the design of reentry programs and policy. Proposed deliverables include manuscripts to academic journals, presentations at professional conferences, and an open-source Android application for researchers and others who are interested in smartphones for data collection purposes. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 12, 2013