April 1998, Vol. 121,
Labor month in review
million work at home
The April Review
Michael C. Wolfson and Brian B. Murphy extend
the debate on income inequality from the focus on the United
States that appeared in last Decembers Review. The
question addressed here is "How do recent levels and trends in income
inequality in the United States compare to some outside
standard?" The standard in this
case is the economy of Canada. They conclude that the stereotype
of a richer but increasingly more unequal United States is only
partly true. While indexes of inequality in the United States
were found to be higher than those in Canada and rising, indexes
of polarization were falling in both countries. And, given their
assumptions about purchasing power parities of American and
Canadian dollars, a substantial fraction of Canadian families are
actually better off than their U.S. equivalents at similar points
in the income distribution.
- Alan B. Krueger and Aaron Siskind weigh in
with a late entry to the debate about bias in the Consumer
Price Index (CPI). They model
changes in self-reported financial well-being as a
function of changes in CPI-adjusted real income. If that
adjustment properly deflates income, their regression of
the net fraction of families that report being better off
on the actual fraction reporting real income increases
should have a slope of one and an intercept of zero. The
model can then test a range of possible biases in the CPI
to see which yields results closest to the benchmark of
"one and zero." The results of these tests
suggest that the "unadulterated CPI-U-X1" was
furthest from rejecting these values.
- Cynthia Engel examines the trucking industry in some detail. This cyclically sensitive
industry has undergone large structural changes as a
result of deregulation, new technologies in logistics and
distribution, and increased competition among modes of
transportation. As a result, the Nations freight
bill has hit an all-time low, but increasing workloads
and less attractive pay have led to high labor turnover
and persistent driver shortages.
- Anne Winkler provides a sociologists
perspective on trends among dual-earner families. Most of the sorting and pairing processes
involved in forming such couples tend to yield unions of
persons on similar points on their gender-specific
earnings distributions. Because average earnings of men
are higher than those of women, this leads to a tendency
for the husband to be the higher earner. However, in a
growing number of cases, the wife is the primary earner
for the family. From the sociologists point of
view, this leads to interesting questions of the nature
of decision making within such a family.
21 million work at home
More than 21 million workers did some work at
home for their primary employer in May 1997. Fewer than one in
five of these were being paid a wage or salary for the time
worked at home. Of the 3.6 million wage and salary workers doing
paid work at home, 88 percent were in "white-collar"
occupations such as professional specialty, executives and
managers, sales, and administrative support.
- About 6.5 million self-employed persons
did some work at home in May 1997. This was more than
half of all the self-employed who were at work during the
survey reference week. More than 4.1 million of the
self-employed indicated they were working in home-based
businesses. These home-based businesses were concentrated
in the service industries. In terms of occupation, about
two-fifths of home-based workers (1.7 million) were
managers or professionals.
- An additional 1.8 million workers did some
work at home on a second job, bringing the total number
of persons who worked at home to 23.3 million, including
1.2 million who had two jobs and worked at home on both.
- For more information, see news release
USDL 9893, Work
at Home in 1997.
Flextime more common
The number of full-time wage and salary workers
with flexible schedules that allowed them to vary the time they
began or ended work was about 25 million in May 1997. The
proportion of workers with such schedules had risen sharply from
the 15.1 percent recorded in a similar survey in May 1991, to
27.1 percent. The increase was widespread among demographic
groups, occupations, and industries.
- Other findings from the May 1997 work
schedules supplement to the Current Population Survey
included the fact that about 15.2 million persons (out of
90.5 million full-time wage and salary workers) normally
worked a shift other than a regular daytime schedule. The
most common alternative schedules were evening shift, an
employer-arranged irregular schedule, night, and rotating
- While flexible schedules are much more
common, the great majority of workers still start some
time between 6:30 and 9:30 a.m. with the biggest bloc
(32.6 percent) coming in between 7:30 and 8:29 a.m. The
most common quitting hour was 4:30 to 5:29 p.m.
- For more information, see news release
USDL 98119, Workers
on Flexible and Shift Schedules in 1997.
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