Research on Labor Market Inequality
Unstable Work Hours and Schedules
Ryan Finnigan. 2018. "Varying Weekly Work Hours and Earnings Instability in the Great Recession." Social Science Research 74: 96-107
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Unstable work schedules are increasingly a prominent stratification outcome, particularly for low-wage workers. Nationally representative and longitudinal research on the topic is limited, however. This article examines varying numbers of weekly work hours among hourly workers, their increase during the Great Recession of the late 2000s, and their impact on growing earnings instability. Using from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the cumulative probability of ever reporting varying hours among hourly workers increased from 37 percent between 2004 and 2007 to 47 percent between 2008 and 2012. Changes in state-level economic conditions, particularly state-level unemployment rates and economic growth, largely explain the increase in varying hours, consistent with arguments that employers pass the costs of volatile demand onto workers. Finally, variance function regressions show the growth of varying hours accounts for the significant increase in earnings instability from 2004-7 to 2008-12.
Ryan Finnigan and Savannah Hunter. 2018. “Occupational Composition and Racial/Ethnic Inequalities in Varying Weekly Work Hours,” pp.165-193 in Research in the Sociology of Work, vol. 32, edited by Ethel Mickey and Adia Harvey Wingfield
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A varying number of work hours from week to week creates considerable hardships for workers and their families, like volatile earnings and work-family conflict. Yet little empirical work has focused on racial/ethnic differences in varying work hours, which may have increased substantially in the Great Recession of the late 2000s. We extend literatures on racial/ethnic stratification in recessions and occupational segregation to this topic. Analyses of the Survey of Income and Program Participation show varying weekly hours became significantly more common for White and Black, but especially Latino workers in the late 2000s. The growth of varying weekly hours among White and Latino workers was greatest in predominantly minority occupations. However, the growth among Black workers was greatest in predominantly White occupations. The paper discusses implications for disparities in varying hours and the salience of occupational composition beyond earnings.
Ryan Finnigan and Jo Mhairi Hale. 2018. "Working 9 to 5? Union Membership and Work Hours and Schedules." Social Forces 4(1): 1541–1568
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Millions of workers in the United States experience volatile weekly working hours and nonstandard shift work, particularly following the Great Recession. These aspects of work schedules bring greater economic insecurity and work-life conflict, particularly for low-wage workers. In the absence of strong and widespread policies regulating work hours in the United States, labor unions may significantly limit varying hours and nonstandard shifts. However, any benefits of union membership could depend on local unionization rates, which vary widely between states. This paper analyzes the relationship between union membership and varying weekly work hours and nonstandard schedules among hourly workers using data from the 2004-7 and 2008-12 Surveys of Income and Program Participation. The results show union members were significantly less likely to report varying numbers of hours from week to week, particularly in states with relatively high unionization rates. In contrast, union members were more likely to report nonstandard schedules. The earnings penalties for varying hours and nonstandard schedules are significantly weaker among union members than non-members. Altogether, the results demonstrate some of unions’ continued benefits for workers, and some of their limitations.