Employer practices

New and Noteworthy: Research on predictable scheduling laws, postsecondary decisionmaking among youth, and more

Archana Pyati January 25, 2022

Dear WorkRise community,

Welcome to the first edition of New and Noteworthy!

New and Noteworthy highlights new research and data to inform policies, practices, and programs designed to strengthen workers’ economic security and pathways for mobility in the US labor market. Each month, we will bring you a curated selection of research across WorkRise’s core research pillars: macroeconomic and labor market policy, employer practices, worker power and voice, skills and training, search and matching, and the social determinants of work. We will also feature upcoming events and new initiatives worthy of your attention and trends and news shaping public debates about workers’ economic well-being.

We welcome your feedback and suggestions for new research and events to elevate and topics to explore. Please write to Archana Pyati at apyati@urban.org with your ideas.

New Research

Employer practices

Predictable scheduling: Two new studies yield insights on the challenges of implementing laws designed to facilitate predictable scheduling and compensation practices. (Note: both studies are behind a paywall).

A growing number of US cities and states have enacted fair scheduling laws to improve workers’ schedules, which have become less predictable as more industries adopt just-in-time scheduling.

Published in the ILR Review, the first study examines the impact of Oregon’s statewide Fair Workweek Act that took effect in 2018. Through 98 in-depth interviews with workers and managers, University of Oregon researchers Larissa Petrucci, Lola Loustaunau, and their coauthors find “limited evidence” that the law has effectively improved workers’ schedules. They pinpoint three weaknesses that undermine the law’s intent: inadequate funding for education about and enforcement of the law, provisions that undermine the intent of the law, and substantial leeway for employers to interpret the law. For fair scheduling laws to achieve their intended outcomes for workers, especially low-wage workers, the researchers conclude that two key changes are necessary. First, legislation needs to be accompanied by robust funding for education, implementation, and enforcement. Second, provisions that allow workers to waive their rights to “predictability pay”—compensation for last-minute schedule changes—must be eliminated.

The second study, published by University of California, Davis, sociologists Ryan Finnigan and Savannah Hunter in Social Forces, looks at reporting time pay laws, which require employers to pay workers for a minimum number of hours, even if they are sent home before their shift ends. These laws have been enacted in several states and the District of Columbia. The study authors surveyed hourly workers about their experience with reporting time pay laws and found evidence of “partial compliance” by employers, at best. Few workers covered by such state policies knew these worker protections existed. Researchers also found that providing more information to workers about reporting time pay policies would lead them to advocate for compensation with their managers or through external enforcement by the state, underscoring the role of “bottom-up” enforcement of labor regulations.

Fast food work in the COVID-19 era: A new University of California, Los Angeles, Labor Center report finds COVID-19 presented significant challenges to fast food workers in Los Angeles County. Based on a survey of more than 400 nonmanagerial workers and in-depth interviews with 15 of them conducted from June to October 2021, the report finds:

  • nearly one-quarter had tested positive for COVID-19 during the previous 18 months, and 42 percent said they were “rarely” notified by employers of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace,
  • nearly 40 percent had to purchase their own personal protective equipment (mask or gloves),
  • almost two-thirds reported experiencing wage theft,
  • nearly one-third were not provided with paid sick time, and
  • only 8 percent of workers reported their employers checked for proof of customer vaccination against COVID-19.

Skills and Training

Postsecondary education decisionmaking: A new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper from Johns Hopkins University sociologist Stefanie DeLuca, JHU economist Nicholas Papageorge, and colleaguesexplores how young people from disadvantaged backgrounds make decisions about postsecondary education.Through a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with Black young adults in Baltimore who have experienced instability, violence, and hardship, researchers found that a key factor in their decision to pursue higher education is the anticipation that adverse events such as eviction, death, or incarceration could derail their plans. As a result, these young people opt for shorter, more flexible educational programs they expect to finish—even if these programs lead to less lucrative careers.

The study includes richly detailed testimonies from young people, including 21-year-old Matthew, who lives in a neighborhood where “violence is part of everyday life.” He notes “anything can happen” when asked where he thought he would be in five years. The researchers corroborate these interviews with quantitative data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. They conclude that “it is impossible to identify costs of schooling without data on beliefs about the probability of non-completion, thus providing guidance of future data collection priorities.”

Events and Announcements

New initiative on gig work and gig workers: The Workers Lab and the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative have launched a new research and convening partnership focused on deepening understanding of gig workers and gig work. The project will analyze existing research, commission original research, and host forums that include worker voices and perspectives. Led by Shelly Steward, director of the Future of Work Initiative, the project will employ participatory research methods and incorporate workers’ voices at each stage of the work.

Human capital decisions and the future of work: Join the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond on February 8 to explore how the future of work is changing human capital decisions and what skills will be needed in the economy of tomorrow. Register here.

Trends

Understanding quits: The “Great Resignation” narrative has dominated media coverage and public debate about the contemporary labor market. Workers are quitting their jobs in record numbers, and employers are struggling to hire and are raising wages and prices in response—or so the story goes. The data back this up, at least in part: in November, 4.5 million workers quit their jobs, the highest number recorded by the government survey that tracks job openings and quits or “separations.”

Some experts are urging us to look at the Great Resignation in a more nuanced way: workers aren’t leaving the labor force but are instead quitting bad jobs for better ones. In a recent blog post, the Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould reminds us that hiring continues to outplace the number of quits, a point the media coverage has missed. In fact, hiring even outpaced quits in November in accommodation and food service—a sector where churn is normally high because of the low pay—which suggests some workers are leaving low-wage jobs for higher-wage jobs within this sector. It is also likely true that many food service workers have left the industry entirely. Gould also reminds us that the recent quits data do not capture the recent impact of the Omicron variant on the labor market. Aaron Sojourner, an economist at the University of Minnesota, notes that while some of the quits represent early retirements, the Great Resignation is a mischaracterization of what’s going on, opting for “Great Reallocation”instead.

We want to hear from you! Do you have ideas for new and noteworthy research, events, data or trends we should be watching and amplifying? Get in touch by writing to Archana Pyati at apyati@urban.org.