Maytag Project: Methodology and Results

March 14, 2011

Richard StoutBy Richard Stout, professor of economics

Sample Design: Some 425 ex-Maytag employees received a survey. We apportioned the surveys to fit the geographical distribution of Maytag employees by county and by ward in Galesburg. Further, because the Maytag work force was about 56 percent male and 44 percent female, we sent 237 surveys to men and 188 to women. There were 133 respondents, giving the researchers a 31 percent response rate.

Caveats: A response rate of 60 percent, or 255 respondents, would be desirable (but rarely obtained in survey work). The higher the response rate is the less bias there will be from the absence of data from the non-responders. We expect non-response bias because it seems likely that those who have had the worst post-Maytag experiences would not return a completed survey and are thus underrepresented among the 133 respondents, biasing at least some of the findings.

The Maytag Project

During 2010, Knox College professors and students conducted a survey of workers displaced by the closing of the Maytag plant in Galesburg in 2004, hoping to find out how the workers fared after the closure. The survey covered a wide variety of topics, including personal economics, education, current employment, and life satisfaction.

In 2011, the Galesburg Register-Mail published survey results, along with in-depth analysis and personal profiles of selected workers written by Knox students and edited by Marilyn Webb, Distinguished Professor of Journalism.

The Maytag Project welcomes responses from former Maytag employees who have not filled out a survey. Links to a survey form and all the stories are on the Maytag Project home page.

Only 64 men returned a survey and 69 women. Thus, the distribution of men (48 percent) and women (52 percent) respondents unfortunately does not match the distribution of men (56 percent) and women (44 percent) employees at Maytag. So the sample of 133 has more women and fewer men than desired for a random cross section of Maytag employees.

Finally, most respondents left some items blank, so it is not unusual to have 50 or 60 responses for some items and 120 or more for other items.

Some Findings:

1) The men and women respondents are similar with respect to averages in age, years worked at Maytag, and years of education at the time Maytag's closing. An important determinant of life satisfaction is identification with and satisfaction with one's work (bread winner, quality Maytag products, co-workers, etc). Six years after the Maytag closure respondents report being less satisfied with their current jobs, a reduced sense that co-workers are like family, lower household incomes, and lower life satisfaction.

2) 109 (86 percent) of 127 respondents reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their Maytag work experience, while only 73 (68 percent) of 107 reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their work now.

3) 82 (63 percent) of 131 respondents said Maytag co-workers were like family, while only 35 (27 percent) said their current co-workers were like family.

4) Household incomes have dropped about $10,000 per year fairly uniformly across the respondents. The first quartile of income fell from $30,000 -$40,000 to $20,000-$30,000 now. The median income fell from $40,000-$50,000 to $30,000-$40,000. The third quartile of income fell from $60,000-$70,000 to $50,000-$60,000. Three households dropped to the group under $10,000.

5) Many respondents are extremely discouraged. 49 (over 40percent) of 121 respondents feel they will never recover financially from the Maytag closure. 108 (84 percent) of 128 respondents feel the American Dream is now out of reach of manufacturing workers. And 80 (65 percent) of 123 feel betrayed by the American Dream they aspired to while growing up.

6) The overall median response for life satisfaction dropped from 8 (1 low, 10 high) at Maytag to 7 now. Women at the median were somewhat more satisfied with life than men at the median; however, the bottom 25 percent of women reported satisfaction now to be 5 or less compared to the bottom 25 percent of men reporting 6 or less.

7) Americans believe in second chances. In the face of their adversities, 81 (65 percent) of 124 agreed that re-inventing their future was their responsibility. And 65 (52 percent) of 125 agreed that the American Dream is attainable by those who adapt.

8) 29 (45 percent) of 64 men retrained, and 40 (58 percent) of 69 women retrained. Overall, 69 (52 percent) of 133 respondents retrained. People in their 40s and 50s were more likely to retrain. Men who retrained had an average age of 49, while women who retrained averaged 51.

9) 53 respondents identified the retraining institution they attended. Of those, 22 (41.5 percent) attended Carl Sandburg College (CSC). Two respondents reported that they wanted retraining but that the funding had been exhausted. Those who retrained were generally happy with their program of study and training. The median response for 22 CSC) students was 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 (low to high), and 9 for seven Hamilton Tech students.

10) 32 (62 percent) of 52 respondents reported that their retraining program fits their current job. Thirteen (59 percent) of the 22 CSC students reported a close fit between work and training. Further, 67 percent of CSC students report that their job now fits them better than their Maytag work. Perhaps most importantly, 18 (82 percent) of the 22 CSC students are employed fulltime.

11) What jobs are they doing? Even those who retrained have blue collar work now. Some now have professional jobs. Fortunately, 35 (56 percent) of 62 people report their current work fits them better than their Maytag work. Forty-six of the 83 who described their current job retrained, and 48 of 72 are working fulltime.

12) But are they living satisfying lives? Life satisfaction has fallen generally: The overall median response for life satisfaction dropped from 8 (1 low, 10 high) at Maytag to 7 now. Women at the median were somewhat more satisfied with life than men at the median; however, the bottom 25 percent of women reported satisfaction now to be 5 or less compared to the bottom 25 percent of men reporting 6 or less. In the bottom 50 percent women fared better. Their median rating dropped from 9 at Maytag to 8 now. The comparable medians for men are 8 to 7. The least satisfied have become even less satisfied. On the other hand, the top 25 percent are about as satisfied now as at Maytag: the top 25 percent rate their life satisfaction at 9 or above at Maytag and now.

13) What characteristics are related to life satisfaction? Life satisfaction is high for young adults, drops for those in their 40s and 50s and rises for older people. Evidence suggests that higher job satisfaction is associated with higher life satisfaction, somewhat more so for men than women at low and intermediate levels of job satisfaction. This finding supports the hypothesis that women, identifying less with their jobs than men do, fare better than men in regaining life satisfaction after a major personal loss like the loss of a job. Further, the data suggests that: 1) the better one's job fit is, the higher one's life satisfaction is, and 2) home ownership, for some reason, raises life satisfaction.