Job Satisfaction

Job Satisfaction

Three sets of job satisfaction measures have been collected for employed respondents during select survey years. In addition, a job satisfaction index can be created using items collected during the 1979-82 and 1988 surveys.

  1. Global Job Satisfaction 1979-2018: During each survey year, respondents employed since the last interview are asked to rate, on a four-point scale from "like it very much" to "dislike it very much," how they feel about their current/most recent (CPS) job. This question provides a general or 'global' indication of a respondent's current job satisfaction. In 1994-2018, this question was asked about each job.
  2. Satisfaction with Government Jobs Program: Respondents who were working at a job in conjunction with their participation in a Federally funded employment and training program were asked, during the 1979-87 survey years, how satisfied/dissatisfied they were with their entire experience in the jobs program.
  3. Facet-Specific Job Satisfaction Scale: During the 1979-82 and 1988 surveys, wage and salaried workers, as well as those self-employed in incorporated businesses, were presented with a series of descriptive statements about the pay, working conditions, promotion opportunities, supervisors, coworkers, and so forth at their current job and were asked to rate each statement on a scale from "very true" to "not at all true."

Constructing a Job Satisfaction Index 

A job satisfaction index can be constructed for the 1979-82 and 1988 survey years by coupling six of the facet-specific job satisfaction ratings listed above with the global job satisfaction measure and a question that asked respondents whether, given the freedom to make such a choice, they would take another job or keep the job they had at the survey point. This scale, a shortened form of the job satisfaction scales of the University of Michigan's Quality of Employment Surveys, developed by Quinn (1973), provides a reliable indicator of job satisfaction. 

To construct the full seven-item scale, raw scores for each item listed in Table 1 should be converted to z scores for each respondent. The scores can be multiplied by 100 to remove decimals and combined to obtain an unweighted average of the seven z scores. The resulting scores for the satisfaction index are either positive or negative numbers that can be interpreted as deviations from the mean for the total sample of survey respondents.

Table 1. NLSY79 Variables Needed to Construct the Job Satisfaction Index

Survey Year Reference Number for Scale Item
Challenge Comfort Financial Rewards Relations w/ Coworkers Resource Adequacy Opportunity Global Job Satisfaction
1979 R00489. R00490. R00494. R00496. R00497. R00506. R00508.
1980 R02659. R02660. R02664. R02666. R02667. R02676. R02678.
1981 R04473. R04474. R04478. R04480. R04481. R04490. R04492.
1982 R07034. R07035. R07039. R07041. R07042. R07052. R07065.
1988 R25296. R25297. R25302. R25304. R25305. Not asked R25329.

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: Job satisfaction information was collected from the NLSY79 young adults in each survey year. In each NLSY97 survey, job satisfaction information was collected for each job (for example, like it very much, think it is okay). During most survey years, Older and Young Men respondents described how they felt about either their current job or their current/last job. During the 1978 and 1981 surveys of Young Men, employed respondents were also asked a series of detailed questions relating to specific aspects of their jobs. For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.


Quinn, R.B. and Mangione, T.W. "Jobsat '72 and its Kinfolk--a Brief Manual." In The 1969-1970 Survey of Working Conditions: Chronicles of an Unfinished Enterprise. Ann Arbor, MI: Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 1973.

Survey Instruments and Documentation All job satisfaction questions, with the exception of those relating to government jobs, are found in the "Current Labor Force Status" sections of the 1979 (Section 8), 1980 (Section 7), 1981 (Section 6), 1982-92 (Section 5), 1993 (Section 6), and the 1994-2018 Employer Supplements in the main questionnaires. The 1979 government job satisfaction questions can be found in Section 10 "On Jobs" while comparable questions for the 1980-87 survey years are located in the Employer Supplements.
Areas of Interest The global job satisfaction variables can be found in the "CPS" area of interest on the main NLSY79 data set. All individual job satisfaction items are located in the year-specific miscellaneous ("Misc. xxxx") areas of interest. The government jobs program variables can be found in the "Government Jobs" area of interest.