New research debunks popular notions about multiple jobholding

Search and Multiple Jobholding

Nonstandard work arrangements are commonly seen as a growing form of jobholding in the U.S. labor market. Among these types of “gig” work is multiple jobholding—typically, low-skilled workers making ends meet by holding down two or more part-time jobs. According to research published in a new Upjohn Institute working paper by Etienne Lalé of the Université du Québec à Montréal, the data simply do not support this and other popularly-held notions about this type of work arrangement. (A summary of the research, findings, and policy implications is also available in a policy brief.)

According to Lalé, the data show that the typical multiple jobholder is well-educated and working a full-time primary job. She takes on a second job for a relatively short period of time (typically less than three months) purely to add extra income. Lalé adds

A key factor affecting that decision [to take on a second job] is the quality of the match between the worker and her primary job. When the quality of the match is higher, a worker has fewer economic reasons to take on a second job. Non-pecuniary factors are also important. A second job brings in little additional utility if the quality of the match between the worker and the primary job is high, making multiple jobholding less likely to happen.

Other highlights from this study include

  • Holding several jobs at once is not becoming the new norm. If anything, multiple jobholding has been stable or even declining over past decades.
  • Policies most likely to affect multiple jobholding are those that foster high turnover to facilitate good primary job matches.
  • On the other hand, welfare policies targeted to workers in lower-paying occupations are expected to have little impact on multiple jobholding.

Read the working paper: “Search and Multiple Jobholding.”

Read the policy brief: “Multiple Jobholding: Knowing the Facts to Draw Proper Policy Conclusions.”

Research Topics: Employment Relationships