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Job Tenure: Men Leaving Sooner, Women Staying Longer

job search, newspaper, hiring
Men aren't staying at jobs as long as they used to. Women are staying longer. / Credit: Man with newspaper image via Shutterstock

While men are quicker to change employers today than they were 30 years ago, women stick with their jobs for significantly longer than they used to, new research shows.

A study published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review showed that overall average job tenure, the number of years working for the same employer, has been surprisingly stable since 1983. However, the results differ by gender and marital status. Specifically, men and never-married women have seen declines in job tenure, while job stability has increased sharply for married women.

Using data from the Current Population Survey, the primary source of U.S. labor-force statistics, the researchers found that the average job tenure among men slid from 8.3 years in 1983 to 7.4 years in 2012 — an 11 percent decline. [8 Amazing Job Benefits That Keep Employees Happy]

"That decrease may not seem dramatic, but it marks a broad and significant trend," said Matissa Hollister, a sociologist from McGill University and one of the study's authors.

For women, the average job tenure rose 19 percent, from 5.8 years in 1983 to 6.9 years in 2012. The increase was even greater for married mothers, who showed a more than 25 percent increase, from 5 years in 1983 to 6.3 years in 1996.  

Two factors affect job tenure for mothers, the authors argue: levels of labor-market job stability and whether or not a disruption in employment occurs around childbirth. The rise in married mothers' job tenure through 1996 corresponds to a sharp increase in employment levels for married mothers with infants, the authors said.

In contrast, never-married mothers with infants  saw a jump in employment after 1996 and a corresponding increase in job tenure.

"Workplace changes and accommodations likely supported job continuity among married mothers," said Kristin Smith, a family demographer at the Carsey Institute, a research assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire and one of the study's authors. "With rising access to job flexibility, family leave and family-friendly workplace policies, some married working mothers may increasingly have found a way to balance the care of children and remain with their same employer."

Hollister and Smith believe further research is needed to fully assess the factors underlying these trends.

"Although there is a statistical countercurrent among married mothers, the consistent pattern of declining employer tenure among men and never-married women supports the popular perception that there is an underlying shift in the labor market toward short-term work arrangements and employment instability," Hollister said.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.