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Exploring Multiple Pathways from Low-Wage Work to Worker Health: A Mixed-Methods Study

Woo, Jihee (2022) Exploring Multiple Pathways from Low-Wage Work to Worker Health: A Mixed-Methods Study. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Scant research has examined the extent to which both economic and non-economic dimensions of low-wage work determine differential exposures to stress, and the extent to which these stressful experiences pose a threat to worker health. The goal of this dissertation study is to explore multiple mechanisms from working conditions of low-wage work to worker mental health. Informed by a theoretical framework derived from social stress theory, this study utilized concurrent mixed methods to gain a fuller and nuanced understanding of vulnerable low-wage workers.

This dissertation study used both quantitative and qualitative data from the Pittsburgh Wage Study. Health care workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania completed online surveys and/or participated in in-depth interviews. Path analysis and thematic content analysis were used to analyze quantitative and qualitative data, respectively. Quantitative examination demonstrated the significant role of certain working conditions in worker mental health and confirmed the mediating role of stress in the relationships between life stressors and mental health. Qualitative examination revealed four groups of workers, grouped according to the level and source of work-family conflict. These groups suggest that work-family conflict needs to be understood in light of not only work schedules but also other factors that promote or hinder workers’ ability to balance work and life. The qualitative findings provide a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the lack of relationship between work schedules and work-family conflict as revealed by the quantitative analyses, thus illustrating the advantage of employing a mixed-methods approach.

It is essential to see the working conditions of low-wage workers as impacting not only the well-being of low-wage workers, but also the network surrounding these workers. Findings from this study will help inform policymakers and institutions of the need for differential strategies to improve working conditions in support of worker mental health. Implications of these findings are discussed with regard to providing a living wage, alleviating material hardship, improving workplace policies, and helping workers balance work and family responsibilities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Woo, Jiheejiw93@pitt.edujiw93
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShook, Jeffreyjes98@pitt.edujes98
Committee MemberGoodkind, Sarasara.goodkind@pitt.edusara.goodkind
Committee MemberEngel, Rafaelrengel@pitt.edurengel
Committee MemberYoon,
Date: 5 April 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 March 2022
Approval Date: 5 April 2022
Submission Date: 10 March 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 167
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Low-wage workers, job quality, material hardship, work-family conflict, stress, mental health
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2022 15:04
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2022 15:04


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