Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Measuring Maternal Nonstandard Work in Survey Data

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Measuring Maternal Nonstandard Work in Survey Data

Article excerpt

Surveys differ in the measurement of nonstandard work, such that some surveys require respondents to indicate whether they work either a standard or a nonstandard schedule, whereas others allow respondents to indicate that they work both types of schedules. We test whether these measurement decisions influence the estimated prevalence of maternal nonstandard work, using data from two sources: the Current Population Survey (N = 1,430) and the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N - 2,524). Using propensity score techniques, we find that giving respondents the option of reporting work at more than one type of schedule doubles the prevalence ofnonstandard work, compared to allowing respondents to indicate only one type of schedule. Our results suggest that many mothers of young children regularly work at both standard and nonstandard times and that mutually exclusive conceptualizations of standard and nonstandard work schedules do not fully capture their experiences.

Key Words: Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing, maternal employment, nonstandard work.

Recent decades have seen a remarkable increase in the labor force participation of women with children; in 2010, 71% of all mothers worked (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). In addition, mothers increasingly hold jobs that involve nonstandard schedules; that is, work hours in the evening, at night, on weekends, or on an irregular or rotating shift (McMenamin, 2007). Data from the American Time Use Survey show that 11.7% of mothers who were working on the day of the time diary worked more than half of their hours outside the day-shift hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and 57.3% of such mothers spend at least some of their working hours outside of the 8 a.m.-4 p.m. range (Connelly & Kimmel, 2007).

The variability of nonstandard schedules presents some challenges for survey measurement. Nonstandard schedules often occur in sectors such as retail or service (McMenamin, 2007), which may require work during a variety of times. Indeed, in one of the data sets used here (the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study; FFCWS), 50% of mothers reported regularly working during both standard and nonstandard times at their current jobs (authors' calculations). Yet, in many major surveys used in this research area, respondents are allowed to indicate only one shift that best describes their work schedule: standard or nonstandard. Other surveys allow respondents to indicate they work more than one schedule. Crosssurvey inconsistencies in the measurement of nonstandard work make it challenging to compare findings across studies that relate maternal nonstandard work to family life outcomes. Additionally, accurate estimates of the prevalence of nonstandard work are difficult to determine when one survey allows for a more expansive definition of nonstandard work than another.

This article examines how variation in the measurement of maternal nonstandard work influences estimates of the prevalence of nonstandard work. We do so using two data sets- the FFCWS and the Current Population Survey (CPS); the former allows women to indicate that they work more than one type of work schedule (i.e., both standard and nonstandard times), whereas the latter does not. These widely used data sets are ideally suited to examine nonstandard work among less-advantaged mothers, who are overrepresented in jobs requiring work at nonstandard times (McMenamin, 2007).

Previous Research

A large and growing literature examines factors influencing selection into nonstandard work (Connelly & Kimmel, 2007; McMenamin, 2007; Presser, 1999,2003,2004; Presser & Cox, 1997), and the linkages between nonstandard work and child well-being and family functioning (Han, 2005, 2006; Hsueh & Yoshikawa, 2007; Joshi & Bogen, 2007; Strazdins, Clements, Korda, Broom, & D'Souza, 2006). No previous study, however, has examined differences in the measurement of nonstandard work across large public survey data sets. …

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