Who’s Watching the Kids?: Family-friendly Schedules and Child Care Stability

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Many hourly workers, especially in the retail sector, contend with unstable and unpredictable work schedules in which the number of hours, the days of the week, and the times of day that they work vary substantially from week to week. This chronic instability is likely to negatively affect workers and could also have spillover effects for children.

This project draws from a unique database of approximately 9,500 parents (with children under age 10) working hourly retail jobs at the nation’s largest 100 employers. The research team will use Facebook’s highly sophisticated targeting capabilities to assemble a sampling frame of employees of specific retail companies and then recruit workers to an online survey that collects detailed data on schedules, household economic insecurity, and childcare arrangements.

 Two states are attempting to address this schedule instability by regulating work schedules. Oregon’s Fair Workweek law took effect in the summer of 2018, and now requires that workers receive extra pay if they are not given at least two weeks’ notice of their work schedule or when their schedules change on short notice. New York State requires pay for workers who show up for work but are not needed, and has proposed expanded regulations to discourage last-minute scheduling. Targeting these two states, the analysis will:

  1. Estimate how exposure to unstable and unpredictable scheduling practices in retail is associated with the type of childcare used, the complexity of care arrangements, and parents’ difficulty in arranging for care.
  2. Estimate how childcare arrangements change with regulations and ordinances that aim to improve the predictability and stability of work schedule.

While policymakers have already begun regulating scheduling practices, the evidence base remains quite thin, in large part because existing data sources lack the necessary information about work scheduling. This project’s innovative methods allow for an unprecedented view of the work scheduling experiences of parents at less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and can help inform plans to introduce these types of policies.

Principal Investigator: Daniel Schneider, University of California, Berkeley and Kristen Harknett, University of California, San Francisco

Evidence

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Low-income working parents often face routine uncertainty in their schedules because of “just-in-time” scheduling practices that offer workers little notice of when they will be expected to work. In a new working paper, Kristen Harknett, Daniel Schneider, and Sigrid Luhr of P4A’s Research Hub at University of California, Berkeley, examine the consequences of unstable and unpredictable work schedules on child care arrangements.