A 2015 report by the International Labour Organization covering more than 180 countries and over 84% of the global workforce warned of “widespread job insecurity in the global labor market,” finding that only one-quarter of the world’s workers have a stable employment relationship. In the United States, according to the 2016 Work and Well-Being Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, more than one in three working adults report job insecurity as a significant source of stress.

Unfortunately, research has found that the resulting consequences of job insecurity are significant, negative, and widespread. For example, job-insecure employees are more likely to report burnout, decreased work engagement, and lower organizational commitment than their job-secure counterparts.

In examining the negative outcomes of job insecurity, a great deal of attention has been given to individual-level variables (e.g., secure attachment style, psychological capital, resilience). As a result, much of the previous research has examined job insecurity in a vacuum — isolating employees from their broader social contexts. However, factors that influence employee reactions to job insecurity may operate at the individual level and at higher levels (such as the group, organizational, industry, or even national level). Nevertheless, few studies within the management and business literature consider the influence of these multilevel, complex, and dynamic social contexts. Because employees are nested within organizations, states, and countries, it is crucial to investigate how these social contexts influence employees’ reactions to job insecurity. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to assess whether and how such social contexts change these employee reactions. Specifically, our research focused on country-level and state-level income inequality.

Read more: If You Live in an Area with High Income Inequality, You’re More Likely to Burn Out at Work