When Jobs Disappear or Become Unstable: Income Dynamics and Economic Well-being Among Urban Households

Yixia Cai , University of Wisconsin-Madison
Christopher T. Wimer, Columbia University
Lawrence M. Berger, University of Wisconsin-Madison

While scholars have increasingly focused on income instability, fewer studies have examined the economic consequences of employment instability. We use data collected at 3-month intervals over 12 months and limit our analyses to prime working-age respondents to study associations of household members' employment trajectories with (1) different levels of household income packages, (2) poverty status, and (3) material hardships, paying particular attention to whether the social welfare benefit receipt buffers adverse financial consequences of unstable employment. We find that consistent unemployment is most strongly associated with low income and poverty but not material needs. However, unstably employed households-especially job losses only-have almost twice higher likelihood of being deprived at all domains of hardship. We also find that cash transfer does a much better job of buffering the negative impact of persistent unemployment than it does for those experiencing job loss, while in-kind transfers benefit this job-loss group more.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality