Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, many American workers, employers, and policymakers are now thinking about job quality in ways they had not previously. Lack of access to health care, worker safety concerns, the need for flexible work arrangements and paid sick leave, and disproportionate job losses in certain job sectors that pay low wages have underscored the ways in which job quality varies for different workers and the ways in which job quality can connect to health, wealth, and stability. These immediate challenges arrive in the context of changes in the structure of work that have also changed the types of jobs in the economy—such as automation and increases in “gig jobs” and other nonstandard work arrangements—that highlight the importance of considering the impact of job quality on economic mobility.
This brief lays out an agenda for research to advance the identification and definition of good jobs and build the base of evidence of how good jobs relate to worker outcomes including economic mobility. We discuss various potential research activities in three categories: improve study of specific job elements and job quality context; create infrastructure to support job quality research; and analyze job quality impacts. This work is important for reaching solutions that will improve job quality for workers. This brief is part of a larger project and series of reports that explores job quality and worker mobility.