Low-Income and Low-Skilled Workers Involvement in Nonstandard Employment. Chapter 3: New Evidence for At-Risk and Low-Income Workers in Alternative Work Arrangements

It is clear from Chapter 2 that both definitional issues and the key research questions are complex--so we should expect the examination of new evidence to be equally complex. This is indeed the case. We use two different sources of data to examine the research questions.(49) In this chapter we exploit the Current Population Survey to address the first component of the research question, namely: how do labor market outcomes for at-risk workers in alternative work arrangements compare with those of all workers and low-income workers in traditional employment. The reason for the use of the CPS is that it is an excellent source for describing a variety of different work arrangements as well as for using different measures of at risk. Consequently, the CPS provides quite rich detail to characterize the trends in and characteristics of alternative work arrangements.

One of the main issues faced with using the CPS was that very few individuals were both at risk and working in alternative work arrangements. Table 3.1 shows the sample sizes associated with the most feasible definitions of at-risk or low-income individuals--namely, individuals who had received public assistance in the previous period, who had a family income below 150 percent of the poverty line, or who had a family income below 200 percent of the poverty line. (50)


Table 3.1
CPS Unweighted Sample Sizes

Work Arrangement

1995 1997 1999

All Workers

Agency Temps 342 347 322
On-Call Workers 671 632 679
Regular Workers 34,934 31,970 32,470

Public Assistance Recipients

Agency Temps 77 52 73
On-Call Workers 90 93 118
Regular Workers 3,445 3,296 2,785

Workers Below 150% Poverty

Agency Temps 99 82 94
On-Call Workers 135 140 133
Regular Workers 3,874 3,565 3,254

Source: Current Population Survey, matched February to March.