The Temporary Staffing Industry and the Career Prospects of Lower Skilled Workers

Awarded Scholars:
Laurie Bassi, American Society for Training & Development
David Finegold, American Society for Training & Development
Alec Levenson, American Society for Training & Development
Ann Majchrzak, American Society for Training & Development
Mark Van Buren, American Society for Training & Development
Project Date:
Jun 1998
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Future of Work



The number of workers hired through temporary employment agencies has increased five-fold since the early 1980s. For many commentators, this rise in temporary employment is an ominous sign. It is not clear whether temporary jobs are a last resort for workers who cannot find permanent employment, or a stepping-stone, providing low-skilled workers with the experience and skills they need to move into permanent jobs. A team of scholars, Laurie Bassi and Mark van Buren of the American Society for Training and Development, David Finegold and Ann Majchrzak from the University of Southern California, and Alec Levenson from the Milken Institute, have gained unprecedented access to the personnel records of one of the nation's leading temporary employment agencies - a data set that should significantly advance our understanding of the dynamics of temporary employment.


The agency's records track every job assignment for each of the 1.5 million workers it places each year. The investigators will survey a sample of these workers, asking them about their employment experience, their motivations for using the agency, and the training they have received. Following up on the progress of these workers a year later, the investigators will attempt to identify those factors that allow some workers to move out of temporary employment into permanent jobs. The investigators will complement this survey with a comprehensive assessment of the agency's training provision and a series of on-site observations of temporary workers on job assignments. The results of the project will form the basis for a series of articles, policy papers, and a summary volume, to be published by the Russell Sage Foundation, combining the case study results with a general review of the temporary employment industry.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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