In the United States today, women represent about half of the salaried workforce. This includes both single mothers and married women. When women live in families with another adult, it is highly likely that both adults will be employed outside the home. Yet despite their greater involvement in the workforce over the last several decades, and men’s greater involvement at home, women’s responsibilities for the care of dependent children and adults have not significantly decreased. In this context, workplace flexibility has been touted as the key change in the organization of work that will improve workers’ ability to reconcile work and personal responsibilities. In fact, flexibility not only enhances work-family balance, but also reduces stress, improves health and well-being and decreases absenteeism and turnover. But, which workers benefit, and at what cost, varies across occupations and industries. And there are reasons to believe that the benefits and costs vary within occupations and within industries as well.
There is some evidence that women pay a penalty, in terms of reduced wages, for family-friendly amenities in the workplace. But the cost appears to have decreased over time, at least for women in some high-skill and high-pay occupations. For other workers, the costs and benefits may be less clear cut.
Sociologist Kristin Smith proposes to use data from the National Study of the Changing Workforce (NCSW) for 1997, 2002, and 2008 to re-examine the wage “penalty” for care workers—a large and growing class of workers—and to analyze differences in wages, job satisfaction, and work-family conflict of care workers compared to other relevant categories of workers—from care workers at different skill and wage levels to workers in service or female-dominated occupations. In particular, she will examine how differences between workers are mediated by indicators of job flexibility, whether it is being able to determine start and end times, the number of hours worked, or the location of work. Besides conference papers, results will be reported in an academic journal article and in more broadly accessible research briefs.