Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


This dissertation study examines dynamics of psychological self-sufficiency (PSS) using a frame of reference that comes from perspectives of low-income citizens who receive some form of governmental assistance (i.e., public aid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and/or housing subsidies). It explores the validity of integrating PSS as a psychological capital into the holistic theory of change in workforce development. Because in the past, great emphasis has been placed on human capital development and fast track movement into the labor market, little has emerged on the influence of psychological capital properties. Subsequently, policy has guided the evolution of employment program models with the primary goal of moving "hard to employ" low-income citizens into the labor market, with limited success. To improve outcomes, there remain unanswered questions as to best practice in service delivery and policy for this population.

A secondary analysis is used for this study with data collected from a survey administered to 377 low-income citizens receiving governmental assistance and living in the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). The survey incorporated the Employment Hope Scale (EHS) and the Perceived Employment Barrier Scale (PEBS), which together make up the theoretical construct of PSS. PSS is a psychological empowerment -based construct that captures

the goal-directed process aspect as opposed to the economic self-sufficiency (ESS) outcome (Hong, Polanin, & Pigott, 2012). PSS is operationalized as employment hope minus perceived employment barriers (Hong, Choi, & Key, 2018).

Findings suggest that there is a strong positive relationship between PSS and ESS. ESS for the purpose of this research study is defined as the ability take care of oneself without requiring aid or support particularly from governmental assistance. The findings also suggest there is a positively significant association between employment status and PSS and between educational level and PSS. Specifically, those who are employed and individuals with a higher than high school education are likely to have greater PSS.

These findings support the need to include PSS as the psychological empowerment-based construct in the definition of self-sufficiency for low-income individuals. It also supports the need to integrate PSS to strengthen psychological empowerment-based models in workforce development that are designed to assist those considered "hard-to-employ."

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