October, 2000, Vol. 123, No. 10
Reasons for working multiple jobsChart / Table (PDF 21K)
Reasons for working multiple jobs
People become multiple jobholders for a variety of reasons. Of the 8.5 million people who worked more than one job in May 1997, 4 out of every 10 did so to meet regular household expenses or to pay off debt. According to data from the Current Population Survey, other common reasons for working more than one job included enjoying the work on the second job, wanting to save for the future, wanting to get experience or build up a business, and wanting some extra money to buy something special. (See chart.)
The reasons for multiple jobholding varied noticeably among demographic groups. For example, the proportion working more than one job to pay off debts was highest among those aged 16 to 24 (18.2 percent) and then declined with age to a low of 2.1 percent for those 65 and older. (See table.) Young workers (aged 16 to 24) also were the most likely to hold an extra job in order to get money to buy something special. The group aged 55 and older had the greatest percentage of workers who reported that they worked more than one job because they enjoyed the work on the second job (27 percent). These workers were almost twice as likely as adults aged 25 to 54, and nearly 6 times as likely as teenagers, to moonlight for this reason. The proportion of multiple jobholders who worked more than one job to pay regular household expenses was about 10 percentage points lower for older workers than for persons aged 25 to 54. Nevertheless, nearly a fourth of multiple jobholders aged 55 and older gave this as the reason for working more than one job.
In general, men and women worked more than one job for the same reasons. The sharpest disparities between the sexes occurred among older workers. A large proportion of men aged 55 and older (30.8 percent) worked more than one job because they enjoyed the work on the second job; this compares with 21.8 percent of older women. Older women, on the other hand, were most likely to moonlight in order to meet regular household expenses or to pay off debts—36.3 percent, versus 22.2 percent for older men.
For women who maintained families, the overwhelming reason for working multiple jobs was to meet regular expenses or to pay off debts (64.5 percent); this compares with 49.4 percent of men who maintained families.
A greater percentage of blacks (53.2 percent) and of Hispanics (49.0 percent) than of whites (39.5 percent) also reported that they worked more than one job to meet regular household expenses or to pay off debts. About 15 percent of whites were multiple jobholders because they enjoyed the work on the second job; this was slightly higher than the proportion among blacks and triple the proportion among Hispanics.
As the current economic expansion has continued past May 1997, the number of multiple jobholders has edged down. As mentioned above, in May 1997 and in May 1991, about two-fifths of multiple jobholders worked more than one job in order to meet regular household expenses or to pay off debts. It may be that the number of multiple jobholders has edged down during the period since May 1997 because the continuing strength in the economy has enabled them to meet regular household expenses or pay off debts without having to work more than one job.
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