Alternative Work Arrangements: Developing Better Household Survey Measures

Awarded Scholars:
Susan Houseman, W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
Katharine Abraham, University of Maryland, College Park
Brad Hershbein, W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
Project Date:
Nov 2017
Award Amount:

  • September 2019: Additional funding of $31,444 awarded
Co-funded with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation 

Recent evidence suggests a growth in alternative work arrangements, including contract and contingent or “gig” arrangements. However, standard household survey questions—such as those on the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) or the periodic Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS) and the American Community Survey (ACS)—are not well designed to capture non-traditional forms of work and as a result measure them imperfectly. Measurement issues arise in part because surveys were designed to distinguish wage and salary workers from the self-employed, but not to identify contract workers, gig workers, or independent contractors. In addition, respondents may not understand the nature of their employment arrangements or may be confused by the terminology used in the questions. For example, self-employed individuals may incorrectly identify themselves as employees of the organization for which they perform work. Others may fail to report non-employee work that is short-term or informal, or because it is a second job.

Failure to identify evolving work arrangements has important implications for how we think about social insurance and employment protections for workers in both traditional and non-standard jobs, and for the wellbeing of workers and families. Susan Houseman, Katharine Abraham, and Brad Hershbein will address these measurement issues by developing new household survey measures of alternative work arrangements and testing those new measures in the context of the Gallup Daily: Politics and Economy Track Survey (GDS). 


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