Working in a 24/7 Economy

Working in a 24/7 Economy: Challenges for American Families

Harriet B. Presser
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Working in a 24/7 Economy
    Book Description:

    An economy that operates 24/7-as ours now does-imposes extraordinary burdens on workers. Two-fifths of all employed Americans work mostly during evenings, nights, weekends, or on rotating shifts outside the traditional 9-to-5 work day. The pervasiveness of nonstandard work schedules has become a significant social phenomenon, with important implications for the health and well-being of workers and their families. InWorking in a 24/7 Economy, Harriet Presser looks at the effects of nonstandard work schedules on family functioning and shows how these schedules disrupt marriages and force families to cobble together complex child-care arrangements that should concern us all.

    The number of hours Americans work has received ample attention, but the issue of which hours-or days-Americans work has received much less scrutiny.Working in a 24/7 Economyprovides a comprehensive overview of who works nonstandard schedules and why. Presser argues that the growth in women's employment, technological change, and other demographic changes over the past thirty years gave rise to the growing demand for late-shift and weekend employment in the service sector. She also demonstrates that most people who work these hours do so primarily because it is a job requirement, rather than a choice based on personal considerations. Presser shows that the consequences of working nonstandard schedules often differ for men and women since housework and child-rearing remain assigned primarily to women even when both spouses are employed. As with many other social problems, the burden of these schedules disproportionately affects the working poor, reflecting their lack of options in the workplace and adding to their disadvantage. Presser also documents how such work arrangements have created a new rhythm of daily life within many American families, including those with two earners and absent fathers. With spouses often not at home together in the evenings or nights, and parents often not at home with their children at such times, the relatively new concept of "home-time" has emerged as primary concern for families across the nation.

    Employing a wealth of empirical data,Working in a 24/7 Economyshows that nonstandard work schedules are both highly prevalent among American families and generate a level of complexity in family functioning that demands greater public attention. Presser makes a convincing case for expanded research and meaningful policy initiatives to address this growing social phenomenon.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-459-0
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Author
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In the United States, two-fifths of all employed Americans work mostly at nonstandard times—in the evening, at night, on a rotating shift, or during the weekend. Although much attention has been given to thenumberof hours Americans work (Schor 1991; Robinson and Godbey 1997), the issue ofwhichhours—or days—Americans work has generally gone unnoticed by researchers and policymakers alike. Yet the pervasiveness of nonstandard work schedules 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.

    How did these high...

  6. 2 Who Works Nonstandard Schedules and Why
    (pp. 11-58)

    Are those who work nonstandard schedules like most other employed Americans, or do they differ as a group in their job, family, and background characteristics? The answer to this question is important in that it will give us some insight into where the demand for such workers lies (largely reflected by the workers’ job characteristics) and who is responsive to such demand (largely reflected by workers’ family and background characteristics). If people who work nonstandard schedules tend to be those who are relatively disadvantaged in the labor force in terms of family and background characteristics (for example, they are inexperienced...

  7. 3 The Temporal Structure of American Families
    (pp. 59-79)

    American families, like American work hours, are becoming more diverse. Indeed, the two trends go hand in hand. Dual-earner spouses (both employed) are now the predominant family type among married couples, even when children are young, and there are far more single employed parents with young children today than in previous decades. Employment at nonstandard hours and on weekends undoubtedly challenges such families, more so than traditional married couples with a single earner and a spouse at home full-time to respond to children’s daytime and everyday demands.

    In subsequent chapters, we will consider the consequences of non-standard work schedules for...

  8. 4 The Quality and Stability of Marriages
    (pp. 80-109)

    In this chapter, I begin with a consideration of married couples only and address the question: Do nonstandard work schedules affect the quality and stability of marriages? One might expect this to be the case, in that nonstandard work schedules reduce the amount of time spouses spend together, especially if they are both employed and working different shifts, and the amount of time spouses spend together would seem to enhance their bonding.

    There is a body of literature on the effects of employment on marital quality and stability relevant to this issue. However, with few exceptions, this literature does not...

  9. 5 The Gender Division of Household Labor
    (pp. 110-135)

    An essential aspect of family functioning is the performance of household tasks.¹ We have an abundance of data on the extent to which such tasks are gendered; that is, we know that wives spend far more hours per week than husbands cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the house, and washing and ironing clothes, and that husbands spend more hours than wives doing outdoor tasks, household repairs, and automobile maintenance. Some tasks, like shopping and paying bills, tend to be gender-neutral, with both husbands and wives spending about the same number of weekly hours on them. It is the typically female tasks...

  10. 6 Parent-Child Interaction
    (pp. 136-173)

    In the past two chapters, the focus has been on married couples, both parents and nonparents. The aim was to assess the effect of nonstandard work schedules on the quality and stability of marriages, as well as on the division of household labor, and to determine whether the presence of children was relevant. We turn now to a consideration of parents only, both married and nonmarried. The objective in this chapter is to examine the extent to which parent-child interaction is affected by the nonstandard work schedules of parents and whether marital status is relevant.

    Parent-child interaction is considered to...

  11. 7 The Complexity of Child Care
    (pp. 174-199)

    The limited availability of affordable, quality child care is a serious problem in the United States. The abundance of research on various dimensions of this problem is a response to the dramatic growth in paid employment among mothers with young children in recent decades and the corresponding need to expand and improve child care options (see, for example, Hayes, Palmer, and Zaslow 1990; Blau 2001; Helburn and Bergmann 2002). This discourse on the child care needs of preschool-aged children focuses implicitly, if not explicitly, ondaycare. We know that a minuscule proportion of all child care centers are open...

  12. 8 Implications for Low-Educated Mothers
    (pp. 200-213)

    The provision of child care subsidies for poor women has been a special concern of public policy, particularly in the context of moving those on welfare into paid jobs (Blau, Ferber, and Winkler 2001; Helburn and Bergmann 2002). Researchers and policy analysts focus most commonly on the limited range of hours that child care is available relative to parents’ daytime work—and commuting—hours; rarely do they examine the lack of fit between evening and night employment and child care availability. In the previous chapter, we saw that the arrangements made by parents who work nonstandard hours and weekends are...

  13. 9 Summing Up and Moving Forward
    (pp. 214-226)

    In the introduction to this book, I presented a conceptual framework for looking at the process by which factors external to the family—namely, various economic, demographic, and technological factors—affect the timing of employment of family members, and consequently individual and family functioning. In subsequent chapters, I have sought to illuminate this process. Relying on two major data sources, the May 1997 Current Population Survey and two waves of the National Survey of Families and Households (1986 to 1987 and 1992 to 1994), I have focused on documenting the widespread employment of people with nonstandard work schedules, how such...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 227-242)
  15. References
    (pp. 243-254)
  16. Index
    (pp. 255-267)