Informing policy. Inspiring change. Improving lives.
1200 18th Street NW, Suite 301
Washington, DC 20036
202 785-5100

Employment & Job Quality

About Employment & Job Quality

IWPR examines the quality of jobs across a diverse range of workers and job types, with an emphasis on low-wage employment. Our research explores access to employment benefits such as paid leave, pensions, and health insurance, as well as the adequacy of governmental work supports including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security. The area also covers the use and value of "family-friendly" policies such as paid time off to care for sick family members, flextime, telecommuting, and child care assistance.

More than 44 million Americans lack access to paid sick leave, but campaigns are underway at city, state, and national levels to pass paid sick days legislation.

IWPR research in workplace leave policies made an early impact. In its founding year, IWPR analyzed the costs to American workers of not having unpaid leave for childbirth, personal health needs, or family care giving in its inaugural publication, Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave. IWPR testified before the U.S. Senate with the report’s unique findings. Our research showed that—by not recognizing the need for work-life balanceestablished policies not only failed to support workers and their families, but were costly to taxpayers. Six years later, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law.

Access to paid sick leave is another important and relevant component of job quality. Having paid sick days also provides more economic security, particularly to low-income workers, who are able to take a day off to care for their own illness or for a family member without fear of losing their job. This issue is particularly important to women who tend to serve as caregivers for children and older relatives. More than 44 million Americans lack access to paid sick leave, but campaigns are underway at city, state, and national levels to pass paid sick days legislation. IWPR research on paid leave has found that employees with access to the benefit have better self-reported health and are less likely to visit hospital emergency rooms, reducing private and public health care costs.

According to a 2010 survey, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, as of late 2010, 76 percent of Americans favored laws supporting paid family and medical leave, 75 percent support policies promoting quality, affordable child and after-school care, and 69 percent support national paid sick days legislation. These policies must be accessible to those who need them most. IWPR’s research found that, during the 2009–2010 recession, 62 percent of the 15.5 million women living in poverty did not receive food stamps, and 88 percent received no TANF income.

In addition to its ongoing research, IWPR is conducting public education activities and holding forums for disseminating information about the need for and benefits of new job quality policies to policymakers, business leaders, researchers, advocates, and the general public.

For more information on this critical issue, visit our Family Leave & Paid Sick Days webpage.


View IWPR press releases and media citations related to Employment & Job Quality.

To see our experts on this and other initiatives, click here.

Visit our external resources page for links to more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Equal Job Growth for Women and Men in Last Quarter of 2011: Women Continue to Leave the Labor Force
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (January 2012)

According to IWPR analysis of the January employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth was moderate in December with 200,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls.


Slow Job Growth in November for Both Women and Men
by (December 2011)

Job growth remained slow in November with 120,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls. This is up slightly from 100,000 new jobs in October, but down from 210,000 addedin September.


Is the Recovery Starting for Women? Slow Job Growth in October for Both Women and Men.
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (November 2011)

Job growth slowed in October with 80,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls. This is down from 104,000 new jobs in August and 158,000 in September. (September’s gains included more than 40,000 Verizon workers returning after a strike. August and September’s totals were revised by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in November). Women’s employment now appears to be rising. In October women gained 66,000 jobs, but men gained only 14,000. The revised numbers for August and September show 136,000 new jobs for women compared with 126,000 for men.


Slow Job Growth in September Points to Need for Federal Help with Job Creation
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (October 2011)


The Gender Wage Gap: 2010
by Ariane Hegewisch and Claudia Williams (September 2011)

The ratio of women‟s and men‟s median annual earnings was 77.4 for full-time/year-round workers in 2010, essentially unchanged from 77.0 in 2009.


Growing Job Gap Between Women and Men: Monthly Number of Women and Men on Payrolls (Seasonally Adjusted), January 2007 –July 2011
by IWPR (August 2011)


Separate and Not Equal? Gender Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap
by Ariane Hegewisch, Hannah Liepmann, Jeffrey Hayes, and Heidi Hartmann (August 2010)

Occupational gender segregation is a strong feature of the US labor market. While some occupations have become increasingly integrated over time, others remain highly dominated by either men or women. Our analysis of trends in overall gender segregation shows that, after a considerable move towards more integrated occupations in the 1970s and 1980s, progress has completely stalled since the mid 1990s. Occupational segregation is a concern to policy makers for two reasons: it is inefficient economically, preventing able people from moving into occupations where they could perform well and that would satisfy them more than the ones open to them. And occupational segregation is a major cause for the persistent wage gap. Our analysis confirms that average earnings tend to be lower the higher the percentage of female workers in an occupation, and that this relationship is strongest for the most highly skilled occupations, such as medicine or law. Yet this is also a strong feature of jobs requiring little formal education and experience, increasing the likelihood of very low earnings for women working in female-dominated, low-skilled occupations such as childcare.

#C377, 16 pages

The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation
by Ariane Hegewisch and Hannah Liepman (March 2010)

The gender wage gap and occupational segregation – men primarily working in occupations done by other men, and women primarily working with other women – are persistent features of the US labor market. During 2009, median weekly earnings for female full-time workers were $657, compared with $819 per week for men, a gender wage ratio of 80.2 percent (or a gender wage gap of 19.8 percent). Women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women. Four of ten women (39.7 percent, down from 43.6 percent in 2008) work in traditionally female occupations, and slightly more than four of ten male workers (43.6 percent, down from 46.1 percent in 2008) work in traditionally male occupations.1 Typically, male dominated occupations pay more than female dominated occupations at similar skill levels. Therefore, tackling occupational segregation is an important part of tackling the gender wage gap.

#C350a, Fact Sheet, 9 pages

The Workforce Investment Act and Women’s Progress: Does WIA Funded Training Reinforce Sex Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap?
by Ariane Hegewisch, Helen Luyri (December 2009)

#C72, Briefing Paper, 8 pages

Statutory Routes to Workplace Flexibility in Cross-National Perspective
by Ariane Hegewisch and Janet C. Gornick (December 2007)

#B258, 44 pages

Keeping Moms on the Job: The Impacts of Health Insurance and Child Care on Job Retention and Mobility among Low-Income Mothers
by Sunhwa Lee, PhD (January 2007)

Since the 1996 welfare reform legislation, government support programs for low-income families have emphasized “work-first” strategies, viewing employment as the primary route to self-sufficiency. The employment situations of welfare leavers and other low-wage workers, however, show considerable instability. Most welfare leavers, for instance, find jobs, but many lose their jobs fairly quickly and experience a substantial period of unemployment before finding another job. While job changes can lead to improved earnings for some workers, this does not seem to be the case for most low-skilled workers or former welfare recipients. For these workers, job retention is crucial for accumulating work experience and improving earnings over time. Yet, for many low-wage workers or welfare leavers who are single mothers facing the dual responsibilities of work and family, sustaining employment and earning a living wage pose a tremendous challenge.

#C360, 81 pages

Making the Right Call: Jobs and Diversity in the Communications and Media Sector
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., and Jessica Koski (July 2006)

The Communications and Media Sector is at the forefront of the 21st century economy. Employing more than 3 million Americans, activity in this sector fuels cultural, economic, social, and political evolution. New technologies, corporate restructuring, and regulatory change precipitated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 are driving rapid change in these industries, causing major shifts in employment patterns. How do these changes affect women and workers of color, who have historically found good jobs and a path to the middle-class in Communications and Media, through representation by labor unions? This report aims to shed light on this question by analyzing employment in the seven largest Communications and Media industries: Wired Telecommunications, Radio/TV/Cable Broadcasting, Wireless Telecommunications, Newspaper Publishing, Motion Pictures/Video Production, Internet Service Providers (ISP), and Other Information Services

#C364, Report, 54 pages
Preview not available

Women's Work Supports, Job Retention, and Job Mobility: Child Care and Employer Provided Health Insurance Help Women Stay on Jobs
by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D. (November 2004)

This research in brief presents selected findings from IWPR's report "Work Supports, Job Retention, and Job Mobility Among Low-Income Mothers" by Dr. Sunhwa Lee. The findings indicate that low-income mothers have a high rate of job-turnover compared with higher-income mothers. Yet, low-income mothers who have health insurance coverage from their employers are significantly more likely to stay on their job than women who have other types of health insurance or no health insurance. Having a regular child care arrangement- whether it be relative care, non-relative care, or center based care- also helps job retention among low-income mothers with preschool children. For low-income mothers moving into a different job, having higher education helps them find a job that pays higher wages than their previous job.


Child Care Subsidies Promote Mothers’ Employment and Children’s Development
by Colleen Henry, Misha Werschkul, Manita C. Rao (September 2003)

In the current debate over welfare reauthorization, the importance of child care assistance for low-income and working families cannot be overstated. This briefing paper explores the current status of government child care assistance, reviews research on the connections between child care assistance, mothers’ labor force participation, and children’s development, and offers policy recommendations for improving the quality and quantity of child care assistance.

#G714, Briefing Paper, 10 pages

Job Training and Education Fight Poverty
by M. K. Tally (March 2002)

The current federal welfare law limits the availability of education and training programs. The reauthorization of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Block Grant offers an opportunity to make job training and education a central focus of welfare. This Fact Sheet is a synthesis of the data about benefits of these programs and makes recommendations on incorporating them into the current law.


The Benefits of Unionization for Workers in the Retail Food Industry
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., and Eliane Kim (February 2002)

This Research-in-Brief summarizes the findings of an analysis of the benefits of unionization in the retail food industry conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Using data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a dataset collected monthly by the federal government, this project compared the wages and benefits of unionized and nonunionized workers in the retail food industry, particularly for women, single mothers, cashiers, part-time workers, and part-time women workers.1 The project also suggests policy changes, summarized here, that would allow more women workers to experience the advantages of unionization.

#C351, Research-in-Brief, 7 pages

The Benefits of Unionization for Workers in the Retail Food Industry
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., Xue Song, Ph.D., and April Shaw (January 2002)

Economic changes in the last decade generally have brought low unemployment and increased productivity, but they have done little to improve workers’ wages. Research has established that labor unions can increase workers’ economic well-being and security. This study investigates the extent to which the benefits of unionization accrue to workers in the retail food industry, one of many industries that are facing new cost-cutting pressures in the globalized economy.

#C352, Report, 38 pages

Why Privatizing Government Services Would Hurt Women Workers
by Annette Bernhardt, Laura Dresser (March 2001)

Using the Current Population Survey, this report analyzes the implications of privatization for women workers, especially those employed in low-end occupations. Women disproportionately depend on the public sector for jobs that pay decent wages and offer benefits. In part, higher wages and better access to health and pension benefits in the public sector can be attributed to higher rates of union coverage. Suggests that privatizing government services will have a negative impact on women workers, especially those who are most vulnerable.

Preview not available

The Male/Female Wage Gap: Lifetime Earnings Losses
by Heidi Hartmann, Julie Whittaker (March 1998)

Using Current Population Survey data from 1979-1996, the authors estimate the lifetime earnings losses to an average 25-year-old woman today who works full-time year round for 40 years compared with an average 25-year-old man, assuming recent earnings trends for women and men prevail in the future. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

Preview not available

Looking Toward the Worklpace of the 21st Century: Closing the Policy Gap for Working Women
by Heidi Hartmann (March 1996)

A lecture given at George Washington University as part of the Annual Nancy Yulee Lecture Series. Overview of women's labor force participation, women's educational attainment, the wage gap, and family roles, as well as public policy changes that could help to alleviate gender inequities.

Document Actions
Go to Home Page