Characteristics of Low-Wage Workers and Their Labor Market Experiences: Evidence from the Mid- to Late 1990s. Other Employment-Related Characteristics

04/30/2004

  • Many low-wage workers at a point in time have relatively long job tenure, but job tenure is typically shorter for low-wage workers than for all workers. In March 1996, for example, 41 percent of low-wage wage workers had at least three years of job tenure, compared to 61 percent for all workers (Table III.9). Similarly, average job tenure was 47 months for low-wage workers, compared to 86 months for all workers.(25) At the same time, a substantial fraction of low-wage workers have short job tenure. About 35 percent of low-wage workers had started their jobs within a year prior to March 1996, compared to 20 percent for all workers. Interestingly, the distribution of months on the job is similar for low-wage males and females. We emphasize that these job tenure figures pertain to a cross-sectional sample, and not to an "entry cohort" sample of low-wage workers who started jobs. The cross-sectional sample contains workers with longer-than-average job spells.(26) Consequently, the job tenure figures are larger than they would be for an entry cohort sample.
  • Only a small percentage of low-wage workers hold more than one job or business. In 1996, only 8 percent of male and female low-wage workers held more than one job. This figure is similar to the fraction of all workers with more than one job (Table III.9). Because relatively few low-wage workers hold more than one job, statistics on their total hours worked per week and weekly earnings in all jobs are similar to those presented above for the primary job (Table III.9).

Table III.9.
Distribution Of Other Employment-Related Characteristics Of Low-Wage
And All Workers In March 1996, By Gender
(Percentages)
Job Characteristics Males Workers(a) Females Workers(a) All Workers(a)
Low-Wage All Wage Levels Low-Wage All Wage Levels Low-Wage All Wage Levels
Tenure at Job or Business (Months)
    Less than 6 23 11 21 12 22 12
    6 to 12 12 7 14 9 13 8
    12 to 24 13 10 15 11 14 11
    24 to 36 9 8 11 9 10 9
    Longer than 36 43 63 39 58 41 61
    (Average tenure) (49) (93) (47) (79) (47) (86)
Working in More than One Job or Business 8 7 8 7 8 7
Total Hours Worked per Week in All Jobs and Businesses
    Less than 20 3 1 9 6 6 3
    20 to 34 12 5 24 16 19 10
    35 to 40 47 47 49 55 49 50
    More than 40 38 47 18 24 27 36
    (Average total hours worked) (44.8) (46.3) (36.5) (38.8) (40.1) (42.9)
Weekly Earnings from All Jobs and Businesses
    Less than $150 15 4 28 11 22 7
    $150 to $299 61 15 61 26 61 20
    $300 to $600 24 39 10 43 16 41
    $600 or more 1 42 0 20 0 32
    (Average weekly earnings) (256) (717) (204) (453) (227) (596)
Sample Size 4,389 16,186 6,088 14,544 10,477 30,730
Source: SIPP 1996 March cross-sectional samples.
Note: All figures are weighted using the 1996 calendar year weight.
a. The interpretation of the statistics can be illustrated using the tenure figures, which show that 23 percent of all male low-wage workers and 21 percent of all female low-wage workers started their jobs within six months of March 1996.

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