Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Lonnie E. Duncan

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Zwoyer Anderson

Third Advisor

Dr. Douglas Davidson


African American, unemployment, qualitative


Due to staggering unemployment rates, African American men's experience with work in the U.S. has historically received widespread attention in the media and social science literature. Terms such as black male unemployment crisis, puzzle, epidemic and catastrophe have been used to describe the unemployment woes of black. Attempts at explaining why African American men are experiencing such difficulty in the world of work has been undertaken across the disciplines, however much of this work has amounted to nothing more than acknowledgement that isolating independent factors as causes does not suffice and that a more interdisciplinary framework is needed if we are to truly understand the vocational behavior of African American men. Yet, to date, no such framework exists.

Psychological, sociological, historical, and cultural aspects of our lives are interdependent in determining our feelings and actions. Actions associated with working are no exception. In fact, the field of career development has long acknowledged that vocational development occurs within multiple contexts that include the influence of individual, social, political, and economic factors. however, unemployment has been primarily viewed as a socioeconomic issue, not a psychological issue. Thus, the vast majority of research on African American male unemployment has not sufficiently or explicitly given voice to the individual experience of losing a job and how this impacts his thoughts, feelings, and vocational behavior.

This study used a contextualized humanistic framework using ethnographic interviews to explore the lived experiences of unemployed African American men. A holistic-content analysis was used to uncover individual themes and retell participant's stories. Following, a thematic analysis was conducted to uncover themes that represent the group as a whole. Ten essential themes emerged that spoke to similarities in upbringing, work socialization, work values, use of spirituality to make sense of and cope with unemployment, and unemployment experiences of participants. the findings of this study add important contribution to research on unemployed African American men in that it provides insider perspectives on the experience of living as an unemployed African American man. Further, the findings provide insight into the interconnectedness of multiple factors impacting unemployed African American men's vocational behavior.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access