Fear at Work, Fear at Home: Surveying the New Geography of Dread in America Post 9-11

November 2003 (VOL. 21, NO. 3)

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We set out to gauge how many workers in the United States felt their jobs were made more dangerous by the terrorist attacks of fall 2001 and how they were coping with those fears. Dangerous and unhealthy jobs have long been the lot of less educated and poorer workers but after 9-11 we believed new types of jobs might feel unsafe. We also wanted to know if recent security measures and precautions in workplaces had succeeded in reducing levels of fear. For the broader U.S. population we sought to map some of the main features in the new geography of fear. We conducted a random telephone survey of 399 U.S. residents in March, 2002. The study revealed that one in four workers believed their work became more dangerous after 9/11, and that one in three felt their work had become more stressful. The range of occupations and income leaves in these groups suggests that 9/11may have shifted risk up in the stratification system to what were previously considered “clean and safe” white-collar jobs. Compared to other workers those who believed their jobs became more dangerous after 9/11 significantly more often reported “trying not to think about terrorist attacks” and turning more to their religion. When asked how they coped with new fears, a majority of both groups reported showing their patriotism with flags and talking to others about it. Of all U.S. residents, nearly half (48%) believed their area was a likely target for future terrorist attacks. This varied by region of the country. Large numbers reported concern over being in cities, near military facilities, and near nuclear plants or recreation facilities with large numbers of people. Younger Americans were more afraid than those over65.