HKS Authors

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The authors develop a model of cumulative disadvantage relating three axes of disadvantage for hourly workers in the US retail and food service sectors: schedule instability, turnover, and earnings. In this model, exposure to unstable work schedules disrupts workers' family and economic lives, straining the employment relation and increasing the likelihood of turnover, which can then lead to earnings losses. Drawing on new panel data from 1,827 hourly workers in retail and food service collected as part of the Shift Project, the authors demonstrate that exposure to schedule instability is a strong, robust predictor of turnover for workers with relatively unstable schedules (about one-third of the sample). Slightly less than half of this relationship is mediated by job satisfaction and another quarter by work–family conflict. Job turnover is generally associated with earnings losses due to unemployment, but workers leaving jobs with moderately unstable schedules experience earnings growth upon re-employment.


Choper, Joshua, Daniel Schneider, and Kristen Harknett. "Uncertain Time: Precarious Schedules and Job Turnover in the US Service Sector." Industrial & labor relations review (December 2021).