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July 2011, Vol. 134, No. 7
Nonstandard work schedules over the life course: a first look
Harriet B. Presser and Brian W. Ward
Harriet B. Presser is a Distinguished University Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD; Brian W. Ward is a lecturer, African American Studies Department, also at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland. Email: Presser@umd.edu or firstname.lastname@example.org.
High percentages of Americans work nonstandard schedules over the course of their worklife; almost 90 percent of those ages 14 to 18 in 1979 had at least one such experience by age 39, with some marked differences by gender, race or ethnicity, and education
Large numbers of Americans work nonstandard schedules. Cross-sectional data reveal that one-fifth of all employed Americans work mostly in the evening, at night, or on a rotating shift.1 Moreover, one-third of all dual-earner couples with children include at least one spouse working one of these shifts.2 Such widespread employment at nonstandard times is a significant social phenomenon, with important implications for the health and well-being of individuals and their families and for the implementation of social policies. Yet we know so little about this phenomenon. Much attention has been paid to the number of hours Americans work,3 but the issue of which hours Americans work has generally gone unnoticed by researchers and policymakers alike. At present, we cannot answer the simple, but important, question of the extent to which Americans work nonstandard schedules over the course of their working lives.
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1 See Harriet B. Presser, Working in a 24/7 Economy: Challenges for American Families (New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 2003); and Terrence M. McMenamin, “A Time to work: recent trends in shift work and flexible schedules," Monthly Labor Review, December 2007, pp. 3–15, http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/12/art1full.pdf (visited June 30, 2011).
2 Presser, Working in a 24/7 Economy.
3 See Juliet Schor, The Overworked American (New York, Basic Books, 1991); John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey, Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time (University Park, PA, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997); Jerry A. Jacobs and Kathleen Gerson, The Time Divide: Work, Family, and Gender Inequality (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2004); and Suzanne Bianchi, John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie, Changing Rhythms of American Families (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006).
National Longitudinal Surveys
Gender and nonstandard work hours in 12 European countries.—Feb. 2008.
Time to work: recent trends in shift work and flexible schedules, A.—Dec. 2007.
Female share of weekend employment: a study of 16 countries, The.—Aug. 2005.
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