Brief Characteristics and Well-Being of Adults with Nonstandard Work Arrangements
Michael Karpman, Pamela J. Loprest, Heather Hahn
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Workers with nonstandard employment include those with contingent or temporary jobs; indirect relationships with employers (e.g., independent contractors); or paid informal work activities, including “gig” work, in which online platforms are used to request, match, and schedule jobs. In this brief, we assess the prevalence of nonstandard work and the well-being of adults in these work arrangements using nationally representative data from the December 2020 round of the Urban Institute’s Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey. We find the following:

  • In December 2020, more than one in four employed nonelderly adults (25.9 percent) was engaged in nonstandard work, including nearly one in five (19.4 percent) who reported nonstandard work at their main job.
  • Among workers with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, nearly half (44.4 percent) reported nonstandard work arrangements in December 2020, and more than one in three (35.9 percent) reported nonstandard work at their main job.
  • Workers with nonstandard employment were more likely than workers with traditional employment to report usually working fewer than 35 hours per week (31.3 versus 13.9 percent). They were also more likely to want to work more hours (26.7 versus 17.9 percent) and less likely to have health insurance coverage through an employer (55.4 versus 80.9 percent).
  • Adults in nonstandard work arrangements experienced greater material hardship (including difficulties paying for housing, food, and medical care) than adults in traditional jobs across the income distribution.

These findings highlight the precarious economic circumstances of many adults with nonstandard work arrangements. Policies to improve job-related benefits and expand safety net benefits for workers with nonstandard employment could provide them with greater stability and support.

Research Areas Families Social safety net Workforce
Tags Economic well-being Workers in low-wage jobs Beyond high school: education and training Families with low incomes Alternative or nonstandard work arrangements
Policy Centers Health Policy Center