Daily, millions of employees work schedules that are outside the traditional work week and daytime hours of Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Nonstandard hours (evenings, nights, andweekends) may be worked on regular or rotating shifts, on irregular schedules, or on call. Working inthe evenings and nights, when most people are at home, workers keeping nonstandard hours are, at times, invisible to daytime workers. Nevertheless, coming to clean when office workers are gone, stocking shelves in stores after hours, or guarding empty buildings overnight, workers with nonstandard schedules play a vital role in our fast-paced economy.
The consequences of nonstandard work hours are not distributed evenly among all workers, but lie heavily on low-income families. Sixty percent of all workers with nonstandard schedules have earnings below the median of the typical American worker, and 40 percent have earnings that are lower than those of 75 percent of all workers. These workers face resource limitations and external constraints that constantly challenge the viability of working on a nonstandard schedule. In these times of job scarcity, it is important to discuss policies that make it possible for these workers to hold onto these jobs while at the same time reducing the conflict that working nonstandard hours brings to workers and their families.
This paper examines nonstandard work schedules within the confines of low-wage work and the challenges working nonstandard hours places on low-income families. It presents descriptive data about the industries and occupations where this work is concentrated, estimates a multivariate model of the factors that foster nonstandard work schedules, and discusses the consequences of the limited time that low-wage workers spend with their families. The evidence in this study contributes to policy discussions and scholarly research. In the policy arena, it highlights how work-support strategies, workplace policies, and schools can contribute to make nonstandard work schedules viable for low-wage workers. This study also goes beyond prior scholarly work, presenting trends across time in nonstandard schedules and analyzing the role of extra women in the household as potential facilitators of nonstandard work schedules.