Families and governments are the primary sources of investment in children, providing access to basic resources and other developmental opportunities. Recent research identifies significant class gaps in parental investments that contribute to high levels of inequality by family income and education. State-level public investments in children and families have the potential to reduce class inequality in children’s developmental environments by affecting parents’ behavior. Using newly assembled administrative data from 1998 to 2014, linked to household-level data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, we examine how public-sector investment in income support, health, and education is associated with the private expenditures of low- and high-SES parents on developmental items for children. Are class gaps in parental investments in children narrower in contexts of higher public investment for children and families? We find that more generous public spending for children and families is associated with significantly narrower class gaps in private parental investments. Furthermore, we find that equalization is driven by bottom-up increases in low-SES households’ developmental spending in response to progressive state investments of income support and health, and by top-down decreases in high-SES households’ developmental spending in response to universal state investment in public education.
Working parents must arrange some type of care for their young children when they are away at work. For parents with unstable and unpredictable work schedules, the logistics of arranging care can be complex. In this paper, we use survey data from the Shift Project, collected in 2017 and 2018 from a sample of 3,653 parents who balance work in the retail and food service sector with parenting young children from infants to nine years of age. Our results demonstrate that unstable and unpredictable work schedules have consequences for children’s care arrangements. We find that parents’ exposure to on-call work and last-minute shift changes are associated with more numerous care arrangements, with a reliance on informal care arrangements, with the use of siblings to provide care, and with young children being left alone without adult supervision. Given the well-established relationship between quality of care in the early years and child development, just-in-time scheduling practices are likely to have consequences for children’s development and safety and to contribute to the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.
In this article, we explore the use of Facebook targeted advertisements for the collection of survey data. We illustrate the potential of survey sampling and recruitment on Facebook through the example of building a large employee–employer linked data set as part of The Shift Project. We describe the workflow process of targeting, creating, and purchasing survey recruitment advertisements on Facebook. We address concerns about sample selectivity and apply poststratification weighting techniques to adjust for differences between our sample and that of “gold standard” data sources. We then compare univariate and multivariate relationships in the Shift data against the Current Population Survey and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. Finally, we provide an example of the utility of the firm-level nature of the data by showing how firm-level gender composition is related to wages. We conclude by discussing some important remaining limitations of the Facebook approach, as well as highlighting some unique strengths of the Facebook targeted advertisement approach, including the ability for rapid data collection in response to research opportunities, rich and flexible sample targeting capabilities, and low cost, and we suggest broader applications of this technique.
This article estimates the association between maternal exposure to unpredictable work schedules in the service sector and child internalizing and externalizing behavior.
Precarious work is widespread and characterized by low wages, few benefits, and nonstandard schedules. But working parents, especially in the service sector, contend with unpredictable work schedules as well. These schedules have negative consequences for workers, but may also perpetuate inequality across generations by negatively affecting children.
This article takes advantage of novel survey data from The Shift Project, covering 2,613 mothers (surveyed 2017–2019) working in the service sector with children (mean child age of 7.5), to examine the association between maternal work schedules and child behavior as well as the mediators of this relationship.
Maternal exposure to unpredictable work schedules is associated with children's externalizing and internalizing behavior. Mediation analysis shows that for parents with the most unpredictable schedules, this aspect of job quality operates on children's behavior by increasing household economic insecurity, reducing developmental parenting time, and diminishing maternal well-being.
These results demonstrate that work scheduling conditions may have consequences not just for workers themselves but also for their children.
The authors develop a model of cumulative disadvantage relating three axes of disadvantage for hourly workers in the US retail and food service sectors: schedule instability, turnover, and earnings. In this model, exposure to unstable work schedules disrupts workers’ family and economic lives, straining the employment relation and increasing the likelihood of turnover, which can then lead to earnings losses. Drawing on new panel data from 1,827 hourly workers in retail and food service collected as part of the Shift Project, the authors demonstrate that exposure to schedule instability is a strong, robust predictor of turnover for workers with relatively unstable schedules (about one-third of the sample). Slightly less than half of this relationship is mediated by job satisfaction and another quarter by work–family conflict. Job turnover is generally associated with earnings losses due to unemployment, but workers leaving jobs with moderately unstable schedules experience earnings growth upon re-employment.
To evaluate the impacts of Seattle’s Secure Scheduling legislation on the work schedule experiences of Seattle workers, we surveyed a set of workers paid by the hour and employed at businesses covered by the Secure Scheduling Ordinance. We collected pre-implementation, baseline survey data from Seattle workers in the Spring of 2017. We then collected follow-up survey data from Seattle workers between Fall of 2017 and Spring of 2018, after the law had gone into effect. For the short-term follow-up period covered in this report, our goal was to generate rigorous estimates of the impacts of the Secure Scheduling Ordinance on workers’ reports of their work schedules. To accomplish this goal, it is essential to understand how work schedules might have changed over time even in the absence of the Secure Scheduling Ordinance. Therefore, we also collected survey data from workers employed by the same set of businesses in comparison cities that did not have any scheduling regulations in place. The data from comparison cities provides the best available gauge of whether and how scheduling conditions would have changed in the absence of the Seattle ordinance, and allow us to isolate any effects of the law from general trends in work schedules unrelated to the law. This report describes the experiences of 755 Seattle workers before the Secure Scheduling Ordinance took effect as well as the experiences of 624 Seattle workers after the Secure Scheduling Ordinance was in place for a short period. We compare the experiences of Seattle workers to that of 5,402 workers in comparison cities in the baseline period and 7,328 workers in comparison cities in the follow-up period. We use this survey data to estimate the impact that the Secure Scheduling Ordinance had on several dimensions of the work schedule experiences reported by the workers themselves.
Service-sector workers in the U.S. face extremely limited access to paid family and medical leave, but little research has examined the consequences for worker wellbeing. Our objective was to determine whether paid leave was associated with improved economic security and wellbeing for workers who needed leave for their own serious health condition or to care for a seriously ill loved one.
We analyzed data collected in 2020 by the Shift Project from 11,689 hourly service-sector workers across the US. We estimated the impact of taking paid leave on economic insecurity and wellbeing relative to taking unpaid leave, no leave, or not experiencing a need to take leave.
Twenty percent of workers needed medical or caregiving leave in the reference period. Workers who took paid leave reported significantly less difficulty making ends meet, less hunger and utility payment hardship, and better sleep quality than those who had similar serious health or caregiving needs but did not take paid leave.
Access to paid leave enables front line workers to take needed leave from work while maintaining their financial security and wellbeing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has focused public and policy attention on the acute lack of paid sick leave for service-sector workers in the United States. The lack of paid sick leave is potentially a threat not only to workers’ well-being but also to public health. However, the literature on the effects of paid sick leave in the US is surprisingly limited, in large part because instances of paid sick leave expansion are relatively uncommon. We exploit the fact that large firms in the US were not required to expand paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic but that one casual dining restaurant in particular, Olive Garden, faced intense public pressure to do so. We drew on data collected from 2017 through fall 2020 from 10,306 food service–sector workers in the US by the Shift Project, which include employer identifiers. Using a difference-in-differences design, we found strong evidence of an increase in paid sick leave coverage among Olive Garden workers, as well as evidence that this expansion reduced the incidence of working while sick among front-line food service workers.
The time that parents spend teaching and playing with their young children has important consequences for later life achievement and attainment. Previous research suggests that there are significant class inequalities in how much time parents devote to this kind of developmental childcare in the United States. Yet, due in part to data limitations, prior research has not accounted for how class inequalities in family structure, assortative mating, and specialization between partners may exacerbate or ameliorate these gaps. We match parental respondents within the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) to generate synthetic parental dyads, which we use to estimate, in turn, the contributions of family structure, assortative mating, and specialization to class gaps in parental time spent in developmental care of children aged 0–6. We find some evidence that accounting for class differences in family structure widens income gaps in total parental time in developmental childcare of young children. Further, we show that assortative mating of parents widens educational gaps in developmental childcare, whereas specialization between partners marginally widens these class divides. Although the net effect of these three processes on income-based gaps in childcare time is modest, accounting for these three processes more than doubles education-based gaps in total parental developmental childcare as compared to maternal time alone. Our findings from this novel empirical approach provide a more holistic view of the extent and sources of inequality in parental time investments in young children’s cognitive and social development.
This study examines family structure differences in parents' financial investments in children. Background Family structure in the United States is undergoing important change and continued stratification with increases in single parenting and cohabiting unions. These transformations in family demography have important implications for social mobility as theory and empirical research suggest family structure plays an important role in shaping children's life chances, in part through the differential financial investments that parents make for their children's development. Method Drawing from the 2003–2018 Consumer Expenditure Surveys, this study examined differences by family structure in parental financial investments in children's childcare, schooling, and enrichment activities using data on 44,930 households in 123,862 household-quarters. The study compared differences between married, cohabiting, and single parents, and it tested the extent to which disparities in economic resources account for associations between family structure and financial investments in children. Results Single and cohabiting parents made smaller financial investments in children than married parents. Income explained the entire difference for single parents but about 60% of the gap for cohabiting parents. These gaps in expenditures by family structure were smallest among Hispanic households and largest among highly educated households. Conclusion This study shows that family structure is a source of familial inequalities in parental investments in children. Explanations for the lower levels of investment (compared with married parents) are different between single and cohabiting parents, which has implications for how to reduce these inequalities
White workers experience significant advantages in the labor market both in hiring and in compensation compared to their non-white peers. Human capital differences and occupational segregation are commonly offered as partial explanations for these racial inequalities. To further explain the gap, some scholars have pointed toward firm and intra-organizational dynamics, yet such inquires have been constrained by a lack of suitable data. The lack of data has also precluded an examination of key aspects of job quality beyond wages and benefits, in particular exposure to precarious scheduling practices. We draw on innovative matched employer-employee data from The Shift Project to estimate race/ethnic gaps in these temporal dimensions of job quality and examine the contribution of firm-level sorting and intra-organizational dynamics to these gaps. Results from regression and decomposition analyses show significant race/ethnic gaps in exposure to precarious scheduling that disadvantage non-white workers. Going beyond standard explanations such as human capital differences, we provide novel evidence that both firm segregation and racial discordance between workers and managers play significant roles in explaining race/ethnic gaps in job quality, though a portion of the gap remains unexplained. Notably, we find that race/ethnic gaps are larger but more explicable for women than for men.
In the retail and food service sectors, work schedules change from day-to-day and week-to-week, often with little advance notice, posing a potential impediment to healthy sleep patterns. In this article, we use data from the Shift Project collected in 2018 and 2019 for a sample of over 16,000 hourly workers employed in the service sector to examine relationships between unstable and unpredictable work schedules and sleep quality. We extend prior research on shift work and sleep disruption, which has often focused on the health care sector, to the retail and food service sector, which comprises nearly 20 percent of jobs in the U.S. We find that the unstable and unpredictable schedules that are typical in the service sector are associated with poor sleep quality, difficulty falling asleep, waking during sleep, and waking up feeling tired. As a benchmark, we compare unstable and unpredictable work schedules with two well-known predictors of sleep quality – having a young child and working the night shift. The strength of the associations between most types of unstable and unpredictable work schedules and sleep quality are stronger than those of having a pre-school aged child or working a regular night shift. Chronic uncertainty about the timing of work shifts appears to have a pernicious influence on sleep quality, and, given its prevalence for low-wage workers, potentially contributes to stark health inequalities by socioeconomic status.
American policymakers have long focused on work as a key means to improve economic wellbeing. Yet, work has become increasingly precarious and polarized. This precarity is manifest in low wages but also in unstable and unpredictable work schedules that often vary significantly week to week with little advance notice. We draw on new survey data from The Shift Project on 37,263 hourly retail and food service workers in the United States. We assess the association between routine unpredictability in work schedules and household material hardship. Using both cross-sectional models and panel models, we find that workers who receive shorter advanced notice, those who work on-call, those who experience last minute shift cancellation and timing changes, and those with more volatile work hours are more likely to experience hunger, residential, medical, and utility hardships as well as more overall hardship. Just-in-time work schedules afford employers a great deal of flexibility but at a heavy cost to workers’ economic security.