for Research and Policy
Committee on Contingent Work and Alternative Work Arrangements
Committee on National Statistics
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
A Consensus Study Report of
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This activity was supported by a contract between the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, under Sponsor Award #: 1625 DC-18-C-0007. Support for the work of the Committee on National Statistics is provided by a consortium of federal agencies through a grant from the National Science Foundation, a National Agricultural Statistics Service cooperative agreement, and several individual contracts. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Measuring Alternative Work Arrangements for Research and Policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25822.
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COMMITTEE ON CONTINGENT WORK AND ALTERNATIVE WORK ARRANGEMENTS
SUSAN N. HOUSEMAN (Chair), W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, Kalamazoo, MI
KATHARINE G. ABRAHAM, University of Maryland, College Park
ANNETTE BERNHARDT, University of California–Berkeley
JENNIFER DYKEMA, University of Wisconsin–Madison
DIANA FARRELL, JPMorgan Chase Institute, Washington, DC
ARNE L. KALLEBERG, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
KRISTEN M. OLSON, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
BARBARA J. ROBLES, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, DC
MICHAEL R. STRAIN, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC
DAVID WEIL, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
CHRISTOPHER MACKIE, Study Director
ANTHONY S. MANN, Program Associate
FIONA GREIG, Consultant, JPMorgan Chase Institute, Washington, DC
COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL STATISTICS
ROBERT M. GROVES, (Chair), Office of the Provost, Georgetown University
LAWRENCE D. BOBO, Department of Sociology, Harvard University
ANNE C. CASE, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
MICK P. COUPER, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
JANET CURRY, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
DIANA FARRELL, JPMorgan Chase Institute, Washington, DC
ROBERT GOERGE, Chapin Hall at The University of Chicago
ERICA L. GROSHEN, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University
HILARY HOYNES, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California–Berkeley
DANIEL KIFER, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University
SHARON LOHR, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Arizona State University, Emerita
JEROME P. REITER, Department of Statistical Science, Duke University
JUDITH A. SELTZER, Department of Sociology, University of California–Los Angeles
C. MATTHEW SNIPP, Department of Sociology, Stanford University
ELIZABETH A. STEWART, Departments of Mental Health and Biostatistics, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
JEANETTE M. WING, Data Science Institute, Columbia University
BRIAN HARRIS-KOJETIN, Director
CONNIE F. CITRO, Senior Scholar
This report reflects the contributions of many colleagues who generously gave their time and expert advice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sponsored the project to help guide their efforts to improve and modernize the Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS) to the Current Population Survey (CPS). An integral component of the federal economic statistics system, the CPS provides critical information on U.S. labor market conditions and trends. The CWS was developed in the 1990s to measure aspects of the employment relationship—specifically, the temporary or contingent nature of jobs and certain nonstandard or alternative work arrangements. As outlined in this report, a somewhat broader measurement approach is now required to address research and policy information needs pertaining to the changing nature of work in the economy.
The panel thanks BLS staff who helped shape the project scope. They provided comprehensive information about the CPS and CWS programs and conveyed the agency’s priorities for next steps in the development of the CWS. At the very first meeting of the panel, William J. Wiatrowski, deputy commissioner of BLS, outlined the agency’s vision and strategy for measuring employment in the modern economy and articulated goals for this study. During subsequent meetings, BLS Commissioner William Beach (who began his tenure in the position March 2019) added clarity to this discussion. Anne Polivka, supervisory research economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, shared her extensive knowledge of the CWS and the CPS—describing objectives of the survey, its strengths and limitations, and its design and methodology. Julie Hatch Maxfield, associate commissioner for the Office of Employment and Unemployment
Statistics, presented findings from the May 2017 CWS and walked the panel through the agency’s experience adding questions about web-mediated employment. Finally, the panel benefited from expert coordination and leadership throughout the project from Jennifer Edgar, associate commissioner for Survey Methods Research.
The panel also benefited greatly from presentations on topics central to the panel’s charge by experts outside the BLS. Participants in open session meetings provided insights about the policy context for measuring alternative work, different measures of worker well-being, and the roles of non-BLS surveys and administrative data in measuring alternative work arrangements. Carolina F. Young, policy advisor, Office of U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, discussed Congressional developments such as proposed legislation that would direct the U.S. Treasury to study tax issues for web-mediated economy workers, and the kinds of data needed to inform this work. Alastair Fitzpayne, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, and Shelly Steward, research manager for the Initiative, informed the panel about their organization’s efforts to identify policy solutions to the challenges facing workers in the 21st century. They also described the Gig Economy Data Hub, developed in partnership with the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell, an online resource summarizing data sources relevant to the study of independent and nontraditional work.
Susan Lambert of the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration presented information to the panel about policy issues affecting worker well-being and provided key insights about the problem of unpredictable work schedules, particularly as they affect the well-being and security of low-income and low-skill workers. Tim Bushnell, Economic Research and Support Office, and Toni Alterman, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, both of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, informed the panel about their agency’s efforts to develop a taxonomy of work arrangements to examine their relationships with worker safety, health, and well-being.
Gene Zaino, founder and executive chairman of MBO Partners, provided details to the panel about his organization’s work on policy issues and research characterizing the independent workforce. Cynthia Davidson and Steve Berchem of the American Staffing Association (ASA) presented information to the panel about survey and policy work at their organization—most notably the ASA Staffing Employment and Sales Survey, which collects information from firms to estimate temporary and contract staffing industry employment, sales, and payroll.
Leif Jensen of Penn State University presented findings from his survey-based research exploring urban-rural variation in informal work activities and discussed strategies for measuring these patterns. Dmitri Koustas of
the University of Chicago added to the panel’s knowledge base about what can be learned about alternative work arrangements from tax and from personal financial services data—particularly for jobs mediated through online platforms. Mike Udell and Diane Lim from the District Economics Group provided a rich accounting of the role of tax data in measuring alternative work arrangements, identifying advantages and limitations of such data to measure alternative employment. Jim Spletzer of the Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau, detailed work being conducted at the Census Bureau that involves combining data sources; he assessed the potential of linking CPS microdata to tax data, described how this kind of data linkage is done, and summarized what might be learned about alternative work arrangements using this approach. Additionally, Fiona Greig, from the JPMorgan Chase Institute and a consultant to the project, provided insights into the use of private sector data in understanding alternative work arrangements. The panel thanks all of these individuals for their contributions to the study process.
The panel could not have conducted its work efficiently without the capable staff of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Brian Harris-Kojetin, director of the Committee on National Statistics, provided institutional leadership and substantive contributions during meetings; Kirsten Sampson Snyder, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, coordinated the review process flawlessly; and Marc DeFrancis provided thorough final editing that improved the readability of the report. We also thank senior program associate Anthony Mann for his well-organized and efficient logistical support of the panel’s meetings, as well as his contribution formatting this report. The panel is especially indebted to Christopher Mackie of the Committee on National Statistics, who was the study director for the project. Chris played an invaluable role in organizing meetings; synthesizing input from panel members, outside experts, and reviewers; and helping to draft the report and response to external reviews.
Finally, and most importantly, I would like to add a note of appreciation for fellow panel members who formed the core of the study team. This report reflects the collective expertise and commitment of all panel members: Katharine G. Abraham, University of Maryland; Annette Bernhardt, University of California–Berkeley; Jennifer Dykema, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Diana Farrell, JPMorgan Chase Institute; Arne L. Kalleberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Kristen M. Olson, University of Nebraska–Lincoln; Barbara J. Robles, Federal Reserve Board; Michael R. Strain, American Enterprise Institute; and David Weil, Brandeis University. This group—chosen for their diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and subject matter knowledge—gave generously of their time to attend meetings and to collaborate in the writing of this report.
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: David Autor, Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Susan J. Lambert, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago; Thomas L. Mesenbourg, retired, U.S. Census Bureau; Lawrence Mishel, Distinguished Fellow, Economic Policy Institute; Jean Opsomer, Senior Statistician, Westat, Inc.; Stanley Presser, Sociology Department and Joint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland; Alexandrea J. Ravenelle, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and visiting scholar, Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University; and Carolina F. Young, policy advisor, Office of U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of the report was overseen by Robert A. Moffitt, Department of Economics, Johns Hopkins University, and Alicia L. Carriquiry, Department of Statistics, Iowa State University. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
Susan N. Houseman, Chair
Committee on Contingent Work and Alternative Work Arrangements
1 Introduction: Motivation for the Study
1.1. The Changing Nature of Work
1.2. Informing Research and Policy
1.3. The Measurement Role of the Contingent Worker Supplement
2 Measurement Needs for Understanding the Changing Nature of Work
2.1. Employment: Measuring All “Significant” Sources of Work Income
2.2. Job Types: Categories of Alternative Work Arrangements
2.3. Key Job Characteristics Affecting Worker Outcomes and Well-being, Employer Strategies
2.4. Information about Alternative Work Arrangements That Could Be Provided by Businesses
3 Role of the Contingent Worker Supplement in Fulfilling Measurement Needs Related to Alternative Work Arrangements
3.1. Overview of the Contingent Worker Supplement
3.2. CWS Scope: Universe of Workers and Work Activities
3.4. Insecurity in Hours, Jobs, and Earnings
3.5. Other Information Needed for Understanding Alternative Work Arrangements and Their Implications for Workers
4 The Role of Other Data Sources in Measuring Alternative Work Arrangements
4.2. Establishment and Other Business Surveys
4.3. Government Administrative and Commercial Data
4.4. The Longer-Term Promise of Combining Data Sources
A Biographical Sketches of Committee Members