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News from EPI Part-time workers earn 19.8% less per hour than comparable full-time workers: Across demographic groups, even in the same occupation and industry, workers face a stiff pay penalty for working part-time

New research from Penn State economics professor and EPI research associate Lonnie Golden finds that part-time workers face an adjusted hourly wage penalty of 29.3% compared with workers with similar demographic characteristics, and education levels who work full time. Even after fully adjusting, for their industry and occupation, part-time workers are paid 19.8% less than their full-time counterparts.

The part-time worker gap is even bigger when the difference in benefits is taken into account, adding up to an average total compensation penalty of 25.3%.

The adjusted wage penalty is 15.9% for women and 25.8% for men, suggesting that men pay a relatively higher price for working part time. However, women are much more likely to be working part time hours, and constitute nearly two-thirds of those employed part time. By gender and race, white men face the highest wage penalty at 28.1%, followed by black men at 24.6%, black women at 17.2%, white women at 16.4%, Hispanic men at 16.9%, and 12.3% for Hispanic women. The difference in penalties likely in part reflects white male workers’ advantage in wage rates at full-time jobs, as well as a shared disadvantage when they are in part-time jobs.

Golden finds that the part-time pay penalty is higher for those working part time who would rather be working a full-time job. Part-time workers who work reduced hours because of economic reasons faced a larger penalty than those who chose part-time work for other reasons.

“While some workers prefer the time flexibility that part-time working provides, more than 4 million U.S. part-time workers still would prefer to work a full-time job and likely many others who are working part time for non-economic reasons would also prefer full-time work if they did not have constraints like the lack of support for family caretaking and pursuing education,” said Golden. “Whatever the motivation for working part-time, all such workers face a pay inequity that should be directly addressed through policy action.”

The report suggests a variety of ways that policymakers could promote pay parity for part-time workers. Policymakers, Golden recommends, should adopt codified measures to ensure rights for workers in part-time jobs, including provisions for wage and hours fairness and pro-rated benefit coverage. He also recommends Congress pass:

• The Part-Time Workers Bill of Rights Act, which requires that large employers offer available hours first to available, qualified existing part-time workers before hiring new employees or contract workers.

• The Schedules That Work Act, which would allow workers to request changes to their work hours and schedules, and ensure that employers consider these requests, without fear of retaliation.

Today at 11 a.m. Eastern, there will be a press conference on Capitol Hill for the introduction of the Part-Time Workers Bill of Rights, which will highlight EPI’s new research. Please RSVP to