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University of Iowa University of Iowa

Iowa Research Online Iowa Research Online

Theses and Dissertations

Summer 2016

The lived experiences of underemployed first-generation college The lived experiences of underemployed first-generation college

graduates graduates

Shane Gibbons
University of Iowa

Follow this and additional works at: https://ir.uiowa.edu/etd

Part of the Educational Psychology Commons

Copyright 2016 Shane Gibbons

This dissertation is available at Iowa Research Online: https://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/2084

Recommended Citation Recommended Citation
Gibbons, Shane. "The lived experiences of underemployed first-generation college graduates." PhD
(Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2016.
https://doi.org/10.17077/etd.q4olmx5x

Follow this and additional works at: https://ir.uiowa.edu/etd

Part of the Educational Psychology Commons

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THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF UNDEREMPLOYED FIRST-GENERATION
COLLEGE GRADUATES










By


Shane Gibbons









A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy

degree in Psychological and Quantitative Foundations (Counseling Psychology) in the
Graduate College of

The University of Iowa


August 2016


Thesis Supervisor: Associate Professor Saba Rasheed Ali

Page 100

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financially afford activities with friends, “Just again adding to the frustration. Wishing I

could do more and be more with them rather than having to stay at home or try to come

up with things where we don’t have to spend money.” While these participants felt lack

of money was a barrier to maintaining friendships, two other participants discussed a lack

of free time as a major barrier to maintaining friendships. For Kelly, work required odd

hours leading to a disconnection with friends,

I mean definitely not being able to see them near as much because I work for

Systems evenings, Wednesday evening through Saturday evening. Yeah, I don’t

get to see them or hangout with them because I work when they hangout. I’d say

that’s the biggest way for sure.

While for Adam, the amount of time he spent working prevented him from spending time

with friends and family, “Not being able to see them really as much. When I was at the

station I was working weekends and night time hours. I got to the point where my sleep

schedule was being affected, really badly.”

Unattained life/developmental goals. A variant frequency of participants reported

experiencing a struggle in achieving life goals due to their employment situation. In

general, participants reported a sense of “missing out” on key life/development events

(e.g. starting a family, living on their own, moving into a higher socioeconomic status).

For Amanda, a participant living with her parents due to financial constraints, living at

home was a source of frustration and embarrassment,

I imagined moving out right after college because, well I’d have a job, living on

my own and… very independent otherwise. I pay for everything, as much as I

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can, but the fact that I can’t afford to live on my own is always heavy on my

mind.

Amanda’s struggle for independence illustrates an underlying current of disempowerment

and lack of self-determination in the lives of underemployed FGCG. For Jenny, her work

as a nanny prevented her from having a child, “...But we can’t even think about it [having

a child] because we don’t even have the money to even care for it. So I just feel like our

life is on hold because of underemployment.” Even for participants that felt relatively

fortunate compared to their peers, they noted that financial insecurity prevented their

ability to start a family,

Reaching for the middle class benchmarks in life. I’ve done really good. I really

do feel like I’m head and shoulders above a lot of the people that I, that were my

cohorts in college. And I’m lucky in that respect, but there’s still some things

where I’m not quite there yet. My wife and I would like to start a family at some

point; that’s important. I’m 30 years old and we wanted that to happen sometime

soon. We thought sooner than now. You know, ten years ago. But, it’s going to be

another couple years before we have the financial security in our lives to make

that step.

While these four participants identified specific stymied goals, one participant stated that

there was a general and vague sense of missing out on important life events due to limited

financial resources and free time.

Questioning prior beliefs. Another reported consequence of underemployment

discussed by participants was the questioning of prior beliefs. All seven participants

reported that underemployment served as a catalyst to reconsider beliefs about the world

Page 199

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