Table 2.3. Statistical regression analyses of worker attitudes on occupational groupings revealed that occupations accounted for a decreasing amount of variance in attitudes toward work and employment between 1985 and 1996. The ability to predict work attitudes based solely on respondents' occupations diminished from 1985 to 1996.1

We analyze the nature of work within these categories by considering four dimensions along which work varies and appears to be changing in significant ways:

  • The degree of discretion or decision-making power workers have over how to do their jobs. We refer to this as autonomy-control.
  • The range or breadth of the tasks embedded in a job. We refer to this as task scope.
  • The substantive (or cognitive) complexity, or the degree of cognitive activity and analysis needed to do a job. We will refer to this dimension as cognitive complexity.
  • The extent to which the quality of social interactions, including their emotional quality, is critical to job performance. We refer to this as the relational or interactive dimension of work. It includes emotional labor, which is a relatively new concept and an increasingly well-recognized, if not an increasingly important, component of many jobs in which interactions are critical tasks.

We view these as key dimensions of work. In various scientific literatures, they are the primary concepts that have been used to study the relationship between skills and wages, between skills and compensation, and other features of jobs and occupations. The exception is industrial and organizational psychology, which tends to use more refined indicators for skill. These four dimensions also are broadly supported by multivariate studies that factor analyze more detailed measures of work in search of underlying factors or dimensions (for example, see National Research Council, 1980; for a review, see Spenner, 1990). Thus, these


A binomial test of this trend (i.e., R2 decreasing versus increasing or remaining constant) was significant (p < .05).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement