Research Report No 2
Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre
The job search behaviour of the unemployed is important because
it is likely to affect the chances of the unemployed finding a
job. In particular, we would expect that the more intensely someone
looks for a job, the more likely he or she will be to find a job.
The Labour Force Survey has information on the number and type
of job search methods used by the unemployed. This information
can be used to derive a proxy for search effort or search intensity.
The main purpose of this chapter is to investigate differences
in job search behaviour amongst Catholics and non-Catholics.
In the LFS, the unemployed were asked to indicate which of the following job search methods they used. If they used more than one of these methods then they were also asked to indicate which was their 'main' method.
In the economic literature on job search a distinction has been made between 'employer contact' job search methods and other methods. As the name suggests employer contact job search methods involve contacting employers instead of simply finding out information about vacancies. As such, it has been argued that employer contact methods are more search intensive than other methods and so they are more likely to result in finding a job. We follow Hughes and McCormick (1990), and designate methods (3) advertising for jobs, (4) answering job adverts, (6) applying directly to employers, and (9) other methods as 'employer contact' search.
Religious Differences in Job Search Behaviour
Table 7.1 shows the percentage of the unemployed using each of
the job search methods and Table 7.2 gives the percentage of the
unemployed using each of the methods as the 'main' search method.
The most common methods used are looking at advertisements in
newspapers and visiting the Job Market/Club. The figures show
that there are statistically significant differences in the type
of methods used by Catholics and non-Catholics. For example Table
7.1 suggests that Catholics are less likely than non-Catholics
to visit the Job Market/Club, answer advertisements in newspapers
and approach employers directly. However, Table 7.2 suggests that
Catholics are more likely than non-Catholics to approach employers
directly as their main method of job search. Also, non-Catholics
are more likely than Catholics to answer advertisements as their
main method of job search.
JOB SEARCH METHODS USED
Note: Employer contact search methods are denoted by (ec). An astrix denotes that the differences between Catholics and Others are significant from a statistical point of view.
MAIN JOB SEARCH METHOD USED
Note: Employer contact search methods are denoted by (ec). An astrix denotes that the differences between Catholics and Others are significant from a statistical point of view.
Table 7.3 shows the number of search methods used by Catholics and Others and Table 7.4 shows the number of employer contact search methods used. Both of these tables show that Catholics tend to use fewer job search methods than non-Catholics. On average, Catholics use 3.1 search methods including 0.9 employer contact methods, whereas non-Catholics use 3.6 methods including over 1.0 employer contact methods. This is important because, as outlined above, the total number of search methods has been used in the economic literature as a proxy for job search intensity. The figures presented in Tables 7.3-7.4, therefore, would suggest that unemployed Catholics search less intensely for work than unemployed non-Catholics. However, this result cannot be accepted at face value and it is discussed in more detail below.
NUMBER OF JOB SEARCH METHODS USED
NUMBER OF 'EMPLOYER CONTACT' SEARCH METHODS USED
Tables 7.5A and 7.5B show the percentage of unemployed Catholics
and non-Catholics using an employer contact search method and
using an employer contact search method as the main search method.
The figures show that non-Catholics are more likely than Catholics
to use employer contact search methods; 61% of Catholics use employer
contact search methods versus 67% of non-Catholics. However the
figures also show that there is very little difference between
Catholics and non-Catholics in terms of using employer contact
search methods as the main search method.
USE OF 'EMPLOYER CONTACT' SEARCH
USE OF 'EMPLOYER CONTACT' SEARCH AS MAIN METHOD
It has been shown above that there are some statistically significant differences between Catholics and non-Catholics in terms of various aspects of job search behaviour. In particular it has been shown that Catholics tend to use fewer job search methods than non-Catholics. This is important because the number of job search methods has been used in the economic literature on job search as a proxy for search effort or search intensity. This means that the LFS data suggest that unemployed Catholics do not look as intensely for work as unemployed non-Catholics.
However, this result cannot be accepted at face value for at least
two reasons. Firstly, it may be the case that the total number
of job search methods is not a good proxy for search effort. In
order to illustrate this consider someone who used one job search
method a large number of times, eg someone might have answered
ten advertisements in newspapers. Compare this individual to someone
who uses two methods once only eg someone might have answered
one advertisement in a newspaper and paid one visit to the jobmarket.
If the number of job search methods is used as a proxy for search
effort, then the first individual is judged to have searched less
intensely than the second individual, which is clearly not the
case. Therefore, it may be the case that for some individuals,
the total number of job search methods is not a good proxy for
The second reason for being cautious about the idea that Catholics search less intensely than non-Catholics is that it is possible that it might be explained in terms of some of the differences in the characteristics of Catholics and non-Catholics. For example, we have seen that Catholics are more likely than non-Catholics to be long-term unemployed and, for reasons relating to motivation, discouragement etc, the long-term unemployed tend to use fewer search methods than the short-term unemployed. Therefore, it might be the case that part of the reason why Catholics tend to use fewer search methods than non-Catholics is that Catholics are more likely to be long-term unemployed than non-Catholics. A priori, similar arguments could be made in terms of other factors such as, for example, the geographical location of Catholics and non-Catholics.
In order to assess the strength of these arguments a range of econometric models of job search behaviour have been estimated. The results of these models are given in Appendix 7.3. The main reason for estimating the models is to see whether or not there were significant differences in the job search behaviour of Catholics and non-Catholics after a range of factors such as unemployment duration, geographical location and qualifications, etc have been taken into account.
Generally speaking, the results of the econometric models suggest that Catholics still tend to search less intensely for jobs even after other factors such as duration etc have been controlled for. For example, it was shown above that the average number of job search methods used by Catholics and non-Catholics were 3.1 and 3.6 respectively. This means that there is a 0.5pp difference in the average number of methods used by Catholics and non-Catholics. The econometric analysis suggests that between 0.2pp and 0.4pp of this can be accounted for by religion and the remainder can be accounted for by the other factors such as duration, geographical location, etc. Similar results are obtained when looking at the number of employer Contact methods used.
Overall, therefore, the econometric results suggest that about half of the observed difference in the number of search methods used by Catholics and non-Catholics can be explained by religion and about half can be explained by other observed factors which are correlated with religion. However, the 'bottom line' in all of this is that our results still suggest that unemployed Catholics search less intensely for work than unemployed non-Catholics. However, extreme care must be taken when interpreting this result. One interpretation of the finding might be that Catholics are less work orientated than non-Catholics. However, the limited available evidence on attitudes to work in Miller (1978) and McWhiter (1989) does not support this explanation. Therefore we reject the hypothesis that Catholics search less intensely for work than non-Catholics because they are less work orientated.
An alternative interpretation is that Catholics believe, either
correctly or incorrectly, that they have a lower chance of obtaining
a job. Job search theory shows that, all other things being equal,
it is rational to search less when the probability of success
IS lower. The findings of the Northern Ireland Social
Attitudes Surveys (Osborne, 1989) are consistent with this explanation.
The Social Attitudes Surveys show that Catholics believe that
they are less likely to be successful in obtaining a job than
equally qualified non-Catholics. In our view, therefore, the most
likely reason why Catholics use fewer search methods than non-Catholics
is that they believe their chances of getting a job are lower.
 This is demonstrated formally in Appendix 7.2.
LABOUR MARKET FLOWS
This chapter investigates the differences in labour market flows between Catholic and other men using data from the Labour Force Survey. Labour market flows refer to movements between employment, unemployment and economic inactivity. The focus is on three topics - labour turnover, flows from employment for those who left a job and flows from unemployment for those who left unemployment.
We are interested in labour market flows because, at the individual level, the incidence of unemployment equals the probability of entering unemployment times the expected duration of unemployment. We examine flows into and out of unemployment as opposed to the stock of unemployment.
In our LFS sample, most men enter unemployment from employment
so it is useful to examine separately labour turnover, ie the
rate of leaving jobs, and flows from employment given labour turnover,
ie conditional on having left a job. The other large labour market
flow in our sample is the flow out of unemployment. However, the
sample size is rather small if we restrict our analysis to those
who left unemployment. Thus we examine the economic activity of
all those unemployed one year before as well as those who left
The LFS contains data on current economic activity and economic activity one year ago for all individuals. We also have data on the length of continuous employment and the duration of unemployment for those currently employed or unemployed. The limited and discrete nature of the available data severely restricts the type of econometric models of labour market flows which can be estimated'. See Appendix 8.1 for details.
In Great Britain, unlike Northern Ireland, the annual LES sample includes some individuals who were interviewed one year before. The recently introduced quarterly LFS in Britain includes many individuals who were interviewed in the previous quarter since only 20% of the households in the sample are replaced each quarter. With similar LFS data, panel data or cohort data for Northern Ireland we could estimate a range of less restrictive models.
Labour turnover is modelled using a probit equation. Flows from
employment, conditional on turnover and flows from unemployment
are modelled using multinomial logit and bivariate probit models.
These models and their limitations are discussed in Appendix 8.1.
We regard the models as mainly summarising the relationships in
Tables 8.1 and 8.2 show the flows between employment, unemployment
and inactivity, disaggregated by religion, in our LES sample of
men aged 20 to 59. Table 8.1 expresses current economic activity
as a percentage of economic activity one year ago. For example,
of those Catholics who were employed one year ago, 92.3% are currently
employed. For completeness in Table 8.2 we reverse the order and
express economic activity one year ago as a percentage of current
economic activity. For example, of those Catholics who are currently
employed, 92.4% were employed one year ago. Table 8.1 is the more
important table. There are significant differences in the flows
to and from employment and unemployment between Catholics and
others. For example, in Table 8.1, 6.3% of Catholics who were
employed one year ago are unemployed now and 70.1% of Catholics
unemployed one year ago are unemployed now. The corresponding
figures for non-Catholics are 3.3% and 64.7% which are significantly
Labour Market Flows
CURRENT ACTIVITY AS A PERCENTAGE OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
ONE YEAR AGO
Labour Market Flows
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY ONE YEAR AGO
AS A PERCENTAGE OF CURRENT ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
Table 8.3 shows the figures from Table 8.1 broken down by age
group. The table is in two parts. The first part refers to Catholics
and the second part refers to non-Catholics. Although the sample
sizes in some cells are small, the statistically significant differences
between Catholics and others still remain. For example, looking
at 20 to 24 year olds, we find that 16.2% of Catholics employed
one year ago are unemployed now whilst 23.9% of those unemployed
one year ago are employed now. The corresponding figures for non-Catholics
are 9.0% and 39.8% respectively which are significantly better.
Labour Market Flows by Age Groups
CURRENT ECONOMIC ACTIVITY AS A PERCENTAGE OF
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY ONE YEAR AGO
Labour Market Flows by Age Groups
CURRENT ECONOMIC ACTIVITY AS A PERCENTAGE OF
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY ONE YEAR AGO
In Table 8.4 labour turnover is disaggregated by age group. The
turnover rate is the percentage of those employed one year ago
who are either employed in a different job or else not employed
now. The aggregate Catholic turnover rate is significantly higher
than the non-Catholic rate. Even when we take account of age,
Catholic turnover rates are a little higher. However, the differences
are small and are not statistically significant.
LABOUR TURNOVER BY AGE GROUP
In Table 8.5 we examine what happened to those who left a job
ie we condition on labour turnover. Our sample consists of those
who were employed one year ago but who are either currently unemployed
or inactive or else employed in a different job. There are significant
differences in outcomes between Catholic and other men. In our
sample 46.3% of Catholic men who left employment in the past year
were unemployed as opposed to 30.3% of non-Catholics. Catholics
are significantly more likely to be unemployed even when we control
for age. For example, 56.4% of Catholic men aged 20-24 were unemployed
as opposed to 36.2% of non-Catholic men. Catholic men aged 55-59
are significantly more likely to leave the labour force.
FLOWS FROM EMPLOYMENT GIVEN TURNOVER
Unemployed One Year Ago
In Table 8.6 the current economic activity of all those who were unemployed one year ago is examined. Unemployed Catholics are significantly more likely to be unemployed and less likely to be employed one year later. When we disaggregate by age group we still find significant differences between Catholics and others. Of course some of the significant differences between Catholics and others may be due to differences in other observable characteristics apart from age and religion.
The sample used in Table 8.6 consists of all those unemployed
one year ago. Thus the significant religion effects we find are
due to some combination of religion effects on the hazard or exit
rate from unemployment and, conditional on having left unemployment,
the state entered on leaving unemployment. Ideally we want to
disentangle these duration and transition state effects.
In Table 8.7 the sample is restricted to those unemployed one year ago who left unemployment, ie those who are currently employed, on a scheme, inactive or unemployed less than one year. With this sample we are mainly picking up the second effect noted above, ie differences between Catholics and others in the labour market states entered on leaving unemployment.
Although the sample size in Table 8.7 is small, we find that Catholics
are significantly less likely to obtain a job, and are more likely
to be on a scheme or be inactive. Overall 33.5% of Catholics who
left unemployment are employed (other than on a government scheme),
15.4% are on a scheme, 8.8% are unemployed and 42.3% are inactive.
The corresponding figures for non-Catholics are 46.3% employed
(other than on a scheme), 13.7% on a scheme, 9.3% unemployed and
33.1% inactive. Most of the inactive are discouraged. The rates
of discouragement are 71.7% for Catholics and 52.6% for non-Catholic
CURRENT ECONOMIC ACTIVITY OF MEN UNEMPLOYED ONE YEAR AGO
DISAGGREGATED BY AGE GROUP
CURRENT ECONOMIC ACTIVITY OF THOSE WHO LEFT
UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE PAST YEAR
In Appendix 8.1 we consider how to model the labour market flow data in the LFS. Econometric model results are presented in Appendix 8.2. Labour turnover is modelled using probit models. A large number of explanatory variables are included, for example socio-economic group and industry dummies. In the various models which we estimate, being Catholic does not have a significant influences on labour turnover. From this we conclude that, when a range of other relevant variables are taken into account, there are no significant differences in labour turnover between Catholic and other men.
A number of different models were used to estimated outflows from
employment and from unemployment. The details of these models
are given in Appendix 8.2. Flows from employment are modelled
conditional on labour turnover by considering those who left their
job in the past. For these individuals, being Catholic reduces
the probability of being employed by about 11.2% (0.112), increases
the probability of being unemployed by 12.6% (0.126) and reduces
the probability of being inactive by about 1.5% (-0.014). All
three effects are statistically significant. In terms of flows
from unemployed, the results suggest that Catholic men who are
unemployed one year ago are about 4% (-0.038) less likely to be
employed now than other men.
In this Chapter LFS data are used to examine differences in labour market flows, ie movements to and from employment, schemes, unemployment and inactivity, between Catholic and other men. We focus on labour turnover, outflows from employment and outflows from unemployment.
According to raw figures, Catholic men have a slighter higher labour turnover rate than non-Catholic men, ie Catholics are more likely to leave their job for whatever reason. However, in our econometric models of labour turnover, which take account of socioeconomic group, industry and other relevant variables, we find no significant difference in labour turnover between Catholic and other men.
When we examine outflows from employment and unemployment significant Catholic effects are found. Looking at all those employed one year ago who left their job for whatever reason, we find that ceteris paribus, Catholic men are significantly less likely to be employed and more likely to be unemployed. These effects are found for all age groups.
Amongst those who were unemployed one year ago and who left unemployment
at some point in the past year, Catholic men are found to be significantly
less likely to be employed and more likely to be on a scheme or
In this paper two large household survey datasets are used to
provide a comprehensive picture of the relationship between male
unemployment and religion. A range of econometric models are used
to examine various aspects of unemployment in addition to the
incidence of unemployment. These include economic inactivity and
discouragement, the duration of unemployment, job search behaviour,
labour turnover and labour market flows.
Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Continuous Household Survey (CHS)
data for men aged between 20 and 59 are used. This choice of age
group avoids most of the problems associated with the decisions
to participate in education and training schemes and to retire.
These two datasets are large. The effective LFS and OHS samples
are 11,300 and 6,600 respectively and so sampling variability
is not a major problem. The LFS data are for the four years 1985,
1986, 1990 and 1991 and the OHS data are for the four years 1986
to 1989. The data have been recoded to ensure consistency over
The LES and OHS data are not ideal for answering all the questions we are interested
in. Panel or cohort data would be better. However, we use econometric
models to extract as much information as possible from the existing
data. With LFS and OHS data we cannot directly address the issues
of the black economy and security related employment. Removing
the security related jobs effect is likely to reduce the unemployment
differential by between 10% and 15%.
Econometric models are used to disentangle the effects of many
factors which simultaneously contribute to the various aspects
of unemployment. A large number of explanatory variables are included
in the models. Our list of explanatory variables is more comprehensive
than those used by other researchers and is based on studies of
the incidence of unemployment for Northern Ireland, the UK and
In public debate a great deal of attention is attached to the
male unemployment differential, the ratio of Catholic to Protestant
(or non-Catholic) unemployment rates. The unemployment differential
in our OHS data is 2.5.
In our LFS data this ratio fell from 2.6 in 1985/86 to 2.3 in
1990/91. However, a clustered sample design was used to collect
the LFS data in 1985/86. As a result we cannot say that the fall
from 2.6 to 2.3 is statistically significant.
We critically review two important studies which model the incidence
of unemployment in Northern Ireland, namely Smith and Chambers
(1991) and Compton (1990). These studies reach opposite conclusions
and represent the two opposing views of the factors which account
for the unemployment differential. We review some of the criticisms
which have been made of these studies. In addition we set out
some important new criticisms of Compton's methodology.
A series of econometric models of the incidence of unemployment
by religion were constructed and a range of statistical tests
were carried out to check the robustness of our results. The models
control for a large number of relevant factors including age,
number of children, housing tenure, educational and other qualifications
and area of residence. We find that religion accounts for about
half of the unemployment differential in our two samples. Differences
in the personal and other characteristics of the Catholic and
non-Catholic populations account for the rest of the unemployment
differential. Ceteris paribus, therefore, we find that Catholic
men are significantly more likely to be unemployed than non-Catholic
men. These findings are robust and are consistent with the results
of Smith and Chambers (1990).
Our findings must be interpreted carefully. For example the large and significant Catholic effect on the incidence of unemployment does not necessarily equate with discrimination.
A large and significant Catholic effect may be explained by a range of factors which are not in our models because they are not measured in our data. These factors must be both correlated with religion and have a large effect on the incidence of unemployment. Possible factors commonly mentioned include differences in labour force growth, subject mix at school or college, motivation, as well as direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, or the 'chill factor'.
The effect of differences in labour force growth were examined using a stylised model. Under a range of plausible assumptions, we do not obtain a large effect on the unemployment differential. Some combination of very low labour turnover rates, zero or negative employment growth rates, high Catholic labour force growth rates and segregation in employment are required to obtain large effects on the unemployment differential. In addition we include age and the number of children as explanatory variables in our microeconometric models. These two variables are significant and we argue that they capture some of the labour force growth effects.
There is little evidence that subject mix in Northern Ireland or elsewhere has a large effect on the incidence of unemployment. Also the limited evidence available does not suggest that Catholics are less motivated, less flexible or have a poorer attitude to work than non-Catholics.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, we believe that some mix of direct or indirect discrimination or the 'chill factor' is important in explaining our results. With the data available, it is not possible to split this effect into direct discrimination, indirect discrimination or 'chill factor' components. In addition, it is difficult to apportion these effects into current and past components. The reason is that past unemployment increases the risk of current unemployment. This is likely to be due to the loss of human capital or 'stigma' or 'scarring' effects. Thus the current incidence of unemployment depends, in part, on the past incidence of unemployment. As a result, it is rather difficult to disentangle the effect of past factors from ongoing factors.
However, we may obtain some indication of whether the relevant
factors operated only in the past or continue to operate more
recently by examining the incidence of unemployment for young
males, say those aged 20 to 24, and by examining flows to and
from employment and unemployment. In both cases we find significant
negative Catholic effects. This suggests that some current disadvantage
is present for Catholics, and that the unemployment differential
cannot be explained solely in terms of past disadvantage.
Catholic men are significantly more likely to be economically inactive than non-Catholic men. In our models about half of the difference in inactivity rates between Catholics and others is explained by religion; the remainder is explained by differences in other characteristics.
In the raw data significantly more inactive Catholics are discouraged ie they are not actively looking for work because they believe that there are no, presumably suitable, jobs available. However, in our models when we control for a range of relevant personal characteristics and other factors, we do not find a significant religion effect on the incidence of discouragement. Ceteris paribus, inactive Catholic men do not appear to be more discouraged than non-Catholic men.
Surprisingly we find that there is no need to model the incidence of unemployment and economic inactivity jointly. When we control for a range of factors no significant correlation between unemployment and non-participation is found.
More inactive Catholics claim benefits. However the higher Catholic
rate of claiming is largely accounted for by their higher rate
The duration of unemployment was examined using a variety of simple and more elaborate econometric models. The latter models attempt to take account of the way the data are generated.
Using LFS duration data we find significant religion effects. Catholic men are significantly more likely to be long-term unemployed than other men, ceteris paribus. Also, the exit rate of Catholic men from unemployment is significantly lower. These effects are found both in the raw data and in the models which control for a range of other factors.
With OHS duration data, no significant religion effects were found
either in the raw data or in our models. This is highly surprising
and implausible. If true, it implies that, ceteris paribus, differences
in unemployment rates between Catholic and other men are solely
due to differences in entry rates into unemployment. There is
no evidence for this in the larger LFS samples. Examination of
the data suggests that sampling variability is the reason for
these strange results. In support of this is should be noted that
there appears to be significant religion effects in the OHS duration
data for the earlier years 1983 to 1985.
In our LFS sample, there are significant differences between Catholic and other men in the number and type of job search methods used. These are commonly used as proxies for search intensity. If we follow this approach, our findings imply that Catholic men search less than non-Catholic men. Of course, it may be the case that the number and type of job search methods used may be poor proxies for search intensity.
Catholic men used fewer job search methods and slightly fewer 'employer contact' search methods. 'Employer contact' methods are more direct and likely to be more successful.
The interpretation of these findings is not clear cut. Job search theory suggests that, ceteris paribus, it is rational to search less when the probability of success is lower. Thus Catholic men may search less because either they are less work orientated or they correctly or incorrectly believe that they have a lower chance of obtaining a job.
The limited available evidence does not suggest that Catholics
are less work orientated and so the former explanation should
probably be discounted. The findings of Social Attitudes Surveys
are consistent with the latter explanation. High discouragement
rates and a preference for a job amongst inactive Catholics are
also consistent with this. In our view, therefore, the most likely
reason why Catholics use fewer search methods is because they
believe their chances of getting a job are less.
The limited data on labour market flows in the LFS severely restrict the type of econometric models which can be estimated. We regard the models in this paper as mainly summarizing the relationships in the data. Labour turnover, flows from employment and flows from unemployment were all examined.
In the raw data Catholic rates of labour turnover are a little higher. However, when we control for socio-economic group, industry and other relevant variables we find no significant difference in labour turnover between Catholic and other men. Therefore, higher Catholic unemployment rates are not attributable to higher Catholic turnover rates.
When we consider all those employed one year ago who left their job for whatever reason, Catholic men are significantly less likely to be employed and more likely to be unemployed, ceteris paribus. This effect is found for all age groups.
Amongst all of those who were unemployed one year ago, Catholic
men are significantly more likely to be unemployed and less likely
to be employed one year on, even when we control for a range of
relevant factors. Again, this effect is present for all age groups.
We obtain much the same results when we examine what happened
to those who left unemployment in the past year so this is unlikely
to be just a high Catholic unemployment duration effect.
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