Green Jobs Surveys: Results and Advice from Washington and Oregon

By Mike Horrell
To follow up on November’s post on green jobs, I attended another webinar hosted by the LMI in the Green Jobs series. The title was: Managing a Green Jobs Survey. Researchers from Washington and Oregon (Greg Weeks and Charlie Johnson, respectively) who completed green jobs surveys in their states presented results and gave pointers to future surveyors on green jobs survey design and collection.

The presentations broke into two parts: results and advice.

Results

The two surveys have different definitions and different methods, but general trends can be seen in both surveys.

Of all the industries that contain green jobs, the construction industry has added the most green jobs out of any other. These construction jobs are those that are either geared to energy efficiency or are related to renewable energy. Green jobs have a higher than average wage, and many green jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree. However, the highest paying green jobs do require higher education.

Individual occupations are becoming green, but the often-talked-about green industry is generally non-existent. Most green jobs today are old jobs with a green focus. Few are brand-new, and just about all of them retain the same title as before (exceptions are those like wind turbine technician). Both researchers refer to this as the “greening” of the economy.

Advice

There was a lot of advice given on how to run a survey and how the researchers might have run their own surveys differently. Major points break down as follows:

The Bureau of Labor statistics has not issued a standard definition of a “green job” yet, but there are already a lot of guidelines out there (both from surveys like these and other sources). If a researcher were to develop his/her own definition, a good jumping off point would be to examine a paper put together by the Workforce Information Council which can be found here.

As stated above, there is no specific green area of the economy; all parts of the economy are experiencing “greening” to some extent. Therefore, in future studies, individual jobs must be the unit of analysis. Aggregating to the firm level (or even across occupations with the same title) will tend to bias results. Response rates of surveys mailed to firms (who then tally green occupations) are typically low. Both surveys had response rates of about half. Therefore, when conducting future surveys, substantial follow-up efforts are necessary to try to minimize non-response bias.
Other ways to increase the response rate are to:
o   Design simple and easy-to-complete surveys.
o   Provide example answers.
o   Make the survey available to complete online.

The Washington report can be found here with addendum here.
The Oregon report is here.

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