Half a Job

Bad and Good Part-Time Jobs in a Changing Labor Market

Chris Tilly
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-382-9
Publication: Jan 96

HC: $49.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-381-2
Publication: Jan 96

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0397-1
Publication: Jan 96

240 pages
6 x 9
18 tables, 15 figures

An up-to-date and in-depth analysis of a disquieting trend in the U.S. labor market


Over 20 million people are working part-time in the United States, more than six million of them involuntarily. Both Time and Fortune magazines have run recent cover stories about this constrained faction of the workforce, who tend to earn on average 40 percent less than full-time workers. Addressing this disturbing trend, Chris Tilly presents a current, in-depth analysis of how U.S. businesses use part-time employment, and why they are using it more and more.

Worker demand for part-time jobs peaked more than twenty years ago, but employers' desires for cheap labor and schedule flexibility have continued to drive the long-term growth of part-time jobs. Tilly argues that this growth is a reaction to the expanding trade and service industries, which, by their nature, depend on part-time workers. Examining the nature and purposes of the different types of part-time employment, he explores the roots of part-time jobs in the organization of work, and the inadequacies of existing public policies on part-time employment.

Using not only statistical analysis but over eighty interviews with employers in the retail and insurance industries, Tilly suggests new approaches to providing flexibility without insecurity.


"Chris Tilly's study of part-time work differs from, and is superior to, most others because he puts the organizations that hire part-time workers at the center of his analysis. His ideas about part-time work are derived logically and rigorously. This is true, most especially, of the original and useful distinction he draws between retention and secondary part-time jobs that is at the heart of the book. Half a Job is original, distinctive, and significant."
Eileen Appelbaum, Economic Policy Institute

"In the 1990s, for every person officially counted as 'unemployed,' at least one more person is involuntarily working part-time. These are the workers with only half a job. And their ranks are growing. In this important and compassionate book, scholar-activist Christ Tilly tells us why—and why it matters to the American standard of living."
Bennett Harrison, Harvard University

"Companies are creating part-time jobs even though workers don't want them. Why are they doing this? In Half a Job, Tilly takes on this question and through rigorous documentation helps to make sense of the eroding situation of the U.S. worker. For those seeking to understand the growth of part-time work as well as those attempting to organize and represent the new contingent work force, Tilly's book is a valuable contribution."
John J. Sweeney, President of the Service Employees International Union

"In Half a Job, Chris Tilly seeks answers to some fundamental questions about this labor market phenomenon: why part-time employment has grown, what kinds of part-time jobs exist, and how businesses make decisions about and use part-time workers..... Operating with few legal constraints, companies have many staffing options, and Tilly's skillful blending of qualitative and quantitative information helps us to understand the choices they make."
Monthly Labor Review

"...someone wanting to understand the nature of part-time employment can do no better than Tilly's book. The analysis is careful and even handed. Even more impressive is the bag of tools that Tilly employs to construct a picture of part-time employment. It is a model for how empirical research should be conducted."
Eastern Economic Journal

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
1. Half a Job Is Not Enough
2. Why Has Part-Time Employment Continued to Grow?
3. Two Theoretical Frameworks
4. Good and Bad Part-Time Jobs
5. Implications of the Distinction Between Good and Bad Part-Time Jobs
6. How Businesses Set the Level of Part-Time Employment
7. Cycles and Trends
8. The Case for New Policies
Appendix: A Formal Model of the Cyclical Adjustment of Part-Time Employment in
Noncyclical Industries

About the Author(s)

Chris Tilly is associate professor in the Department of Policy and Planning at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.