Financial Barriers Prevented Nearly 1 in 4 Workers From Changing Jobs in the Past 5 Years

Respondents say potential gaps in health coverage, unpaid time off, and upskilling/reskilling expenses are the three main financial barriers to changing jobs.

May 16, 2022 · Updated on May 16, 2022

Financial Barriers Prevented Nearly 1 in 4 Workers From Changing Jobs in the Past 5 Years
Data Studies
Photo by Thomas Jackson / Stone / Getty Images

  • 23% of workers say financial barriers prevented them from changing jobs over the last five years.
  • Low-income, Black, and Latino/a workers are most likely to have been prevented from changing jobs.
  • The majority of working Americans (57%) recognize that changing jobs is more difficult for low-income workers.
  • 54% believe getting a better job is worth the financial hardship during employment transitions.

Though the Great Resignation is still in full effect, the decision to change jobs isn't easy for all Americans. In a new BestColleges survey of 1,303 working Americans (defined here as full-time, part-time, and freelance workers), nearly 1 in 4 (23%) say they were prevented from changing jobs over the last five years due to financial barriers.

Workers say factors like potential gaps or changes in health coverage (36%), taking unpaid time off to job search or interview (32%), and expenses related to upskilling or reskilling (30%) are three of the main financial barriers to changing jobs.

Definition of Changing Jobs: Leaving current employer to start working for another including:

  • preparing for a job search (e.g., researching career interests and skills requirements, drafting materials such as resume, references, cover letter, portfolio, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • conducting a job search (e.g., online, in-person, at a job fair, etc.) and completing an application(s) and any required skills assessment(s)
  • preparing for an interview(s)
  • participating in interview(s)
  • considering a job offer(s)
  • accepting a job offer

This definition was provided to survey participants.

Female workers are nearly twice as likely as males to say wardrobe expenses are one of the main barriers to changing jobs (21% vs. 12%).

White working Americans are significantly more likely than Black working Americans to say a gap or change in health coverage is one of the main barriers to changing jobs (40% vs. 25%). They are also more likely than Black working Americans to say taking unpaid time off to job search or interview is one of the main financial barriers (34% vs. 23%).

Black working Americans are more likely than any other working Americans to say technology-related expenses are one of the main financial barriers (25%, vs. 16% white and 18% Latino/a).

Black, Latino/a, and Other Workers Were Prevented From Changing Jobs More Than White Workers

In comparison to their white counterparts, Black, Latino/a, and respondents from other racial and ethnic groups were significantly more likely to say that financial barriers prevented them from changing jobs over the last five years.

Despite this difference, nearly an equal amount of white (28%) and Black (32%) respondents agree that changing jobs is expensive. Latino/a (39%) and respondents from other racial/ethinic backgrounds (38%), however, are significantly more likely to say it is expensive.

Respondents at Different Income Levels Still Faced Financial Barriers to Changing Jobs

More than half of working Americans (57%) agree that financial barriers make changing jobs more difficult for those with low incomes.

Though workers making under $40,000 a year are most likely to say they faced financial barriers to changing jobs during the last five years (30%), nearly 1 in 5 respondents (19%) making $80,000 a year or more still say the same.

Workers who earn between $40,000 and $79,999 a year are most likely to say one of the three main financial barriers to changing jobs is the potential gap in health coverage (40%, vs. 32% of low and 36% of high earners).

Low-income workers making under $40,000 a year are most likely to say transportation expenses to job search or interview are one of the main barriers to changing jobs (30%, vs. 26% of mid and 18% of high earners).

Despite Financial Struggles, Most Workers Think Getting a Better Job Is Worthwhile

There are countless reasons to change jobs, from feeling burnt out and detached to just needing something new. But the transition often comes with pauses to pay or other important benefits. Still, the majority of working Americans (54%) say getting a better job is worth overcoming financial hardship during an employment transition. Just over 1 in 10 workers (13%) disagree, while roughly 1 in 3 workers (32%) are neutral on the subject.

Working Americans with postgraduate degrees are most likely to believe in the worth of changing jobs regardless of the temporary financial hardship it may put them through (62%).

However, workers with four year or postgraduate degrees are also most likely to not have been prevented from changing jobs during the last five years due to financial barriers (62% and 64%, respectively).

Roughly 2 in 5 Workers Believe the Government Should Offer Support Through Employment Transitions

Only about a third of workers (31%) agree that changing jobs is expensive, yet nearly 2 in 5 (39%) say the government should support workers through employment transitions.

Black workers are most likely to say the government should support workers through employment transitions (53%) and that the government should take steps to remove financial barriers of changing jobs (53%).

Workers making under $40,000 a year are also most likely to believe in government support through employment transitions (48%) and government steps toward removing financial barriers of changing jobs (47%).

There are also regional differences in beliefs about government support when it comes to employment transitions.

Workers in the Northeast (46%) are most likely to agree with government support, particularly in comparison to respondents in the Midwest (35%).


Northeastern workers are also most likely to agree that the government should take steps to remove financial barriers to changing jobs (45%).

Overall, workers recognize that even if they have not faced financial barriers to changing jobs, many other working Americans have and are in need of assistance.

Methodology

BestColleges.com commissioned YouGov PLC to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov PLC. The total sample size was 1,303 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults (aged 18+) working full-time, part-time, or freelance. Fieldwork was undertaken on April 27-29, 2022. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards.