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Managing Work and Family: Nonstandard Work Arrangements Among Managers and Professionals

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Nonstandard work arrangements among managers and professionals

by Roberta M. Spalter-Roth, Arne L. Kalleberg, Edith Rasell, Naomi Cassirer, Barbara F. Reskin, Ken Hudson, David Webster, Eileen Appelbaum, and Betty L. Dooley

Executive Summary

Over the last 25 years, as the labor force participation of mothers rose dramatically while fathers’ participation in household labor increased only modestly, the competing demands of work and family intensified. One widely cited solution for resolving these conflicts has been employment in nonstandard work arrangements (NSWAs), which include temporary help agency work, on-call work, day labor, contract work, independent contracting, self-employment, and part-time work in a standard employment relationship. Some 29.4% of all workers are employed in these nonstandard work arrangements.

For the average worker, the cost of employment in a nonstandard arrangement is often quite high in terms of reduced hourly wages and benefits and limited job security (Kalleberg et al. 1997). It is possible, however, that nonstandard jobs for workers with greater skills and enhanced bargaining power, such as managers and professionals, may be of higher quality, thus enabling these workers to better meet both their work and family obligations without the usual reductions in compensation and job security. Fully 26.2% (26.5% of women and 25.9% of men) of workers in executive, managerial, and administrative positions and professional occupations (henceforth referred to as managers and professionals) are employed in nonstandard arrangements. This study compares the experiences of managers and professionals in nonstandard arrangements to those with similar characteristics in regular full-time jobs, as well as to other white-collar workers in nonstandard arrangements.

Little is known about the characteristics and experiences of these workers in nonstandard arrangements primarily because the necessary data were not available until the supplement to the February 1995 Current Population Survey focused on nonstandard work and the workers in these arrangements. These data, which provide the first systematic information on the quantity and quality of nonstandard work arrangements in the U.S., are the basis of this report’s analyses. (A discussion of trends in some types of nonstandard work can be found in the Appendix).

In this report we find that managers and professionals in many types of nonstandard work are paid less than their counterparts employed in regular full-time jobs with similar education and personal characteristics. For example, all managers and professionals who work on-call and most who are self-employed or in regular part-time jobs are paid significantly less than their regular full-time counterparts with similar personal characteristics. But when these nonstandard workers are compared to regular full-time workers who not only have similar personal characteristics but who also work in similar industries and have similar union and fringe benefit status, we find that some nonstandard workers are actually paid more, especially those in certain independent contractor, self-employment, and contract work arrangements.

This finding indicates that pay penalties faced by managers and professionals in nonstandard work occur, in part, because of their work arrangement and, in part, because they are more likely to work in low-wage industries and lack union representation or fringe benefits. Managers and professionals in nonstandard work are also more likely than their regular full-time counterparts to have jobs of limited duration.

Race, gender, and family status affect choice of work arrangement. Among managers and professionals in nonstandard work, whites are more likely than nonwhites to work in the jobs that pay relatively well. Women managers and professionals, like all women, are much more likely than are men to work in regular part-time jobs. Having an employed spouse also increases the odds that a woman will work in a regular part-time job, while it decreases the odds for a man. Female managers are much less likely than are other white-collar women to work on-call, for a temp help agency, or in a regular part-time job. Women professionals are less likely than other white-collar workers to work as temps or be self-employed, and both men and women professionals are more likely to work on-call or do contract work.

While we cannot determine whether nonstandard arrangements provide workers with greater flexibility in their work schedule (respondents were not questioned about this issue), we can examine average hours worked per week in each of these arrangements. The most striking finding is that women managers and professionals in all types of nonstandard work, on average, work fewer hours per week than women within these occupations in regular full-time jobs. These managerial and professional women appear to use these arrangements to reduce their work-time obligation. The same does not hold true for male managers and professionals. Those men who are self-employed or independent contractors (87% of managers and 61% of professionals) typically work more hours per week than regular full-time workers. Thus, these nonstandard arrangements appear to do more to reinforce those workers’ role as breadwinners, leaving even less time to attend to needs at home.

This study also investigates whether workers use nonstandard work arrangements to facilitate transitions during different periods in a life or career. Students and young workers may use NSWAs to explore occupations and workplaces (Heckman 1997), but our research shows that such employment does not often result in being hired in regular full-time positions. As workers approach retirement, nonstandard arrangements such as independent contracting may provide a solution for those who already have health and pension benefits, but this, too, depends on whether the work arrangement is voluntary and planned. Older men (between the ages of 45 and 65) appear to accept these arrangements for voluntary reasons, while older women (also between the ages of 45 and 65) are more likely to accept them for family reasons.

Full text of this study is available in PDF format.

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