Understanding Good Jobs: A Review of Definitions and Evidence

Research Report

Understanding Good Jobs: A Review of Definitions and Evidence


Now more than ever, many Americans find their employment and financial status precarious and their prospects for upward mobility limited. This paper aims to add to the discussion on how to promote workers’ economic mobility through improving job quality. Definitions of what constitutes a “good job” vary—including adequate wages, benefits, stable schedules, worker protections, positive work environments, potential for advancement, and other features. In this report, we examine definitions and evidence on good jobs, with a focus on elements of jobs that might support economic mobility.  We develop a framework for defining good jobs, drawing from different definitions of job quality in the literature. Then we use this framework to organize a review of the evidence on links between elements of good jobs and worker well-being, focusing on elements of jobs that might support worker mobility. We find that job quality definitions vary significantly in their complexity. There is evidence indicating relationships between job elements and worker well-being (variously defined), though the depth and conclusiveness of research vary in important ways. Research connecting job elements to economic mobility is more limited. This report is part of a larger effort to examine the ways additional research and data can support understanding of the role of job quality in worker mobility.

Research Area: 

Cross-Center Initiative

Cross-Center Initiative: 
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