University of Maryland, College Park

To inform the design of questions to learn about alternative work arrangements among the population age 50 plus and provide new evidence on the role of these arrangements in older adults’ work lives

  • Amount $499,637
  • City College Park, MD
  • Investigator Katharine Abraham
  • Year 2018
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Working Longer

This grant funds work by Katharine Abraham and John Haltiwanger of the University of Maryland and Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute to bring greater precision to our understanding of how to define and count the “alternative workforce,” and to gain deeper understanding of the roles the different types of alternative work arrangements play in older workers’ lives. Partnering with Gallup, Abraham and her team will field a nationally representative telephone survey of adults aged 18 to 80, asking them about their nontraditional work arrangements. The team will then create a new dataset by linking survey responses with administrative data from tax filings and household surveys. The new dataset will allow the team to probe how alternative work arrangements fit into the labor market behavior of older workers. Questions of interest include whether and to what extent alternative work arrangements are used during periods of traditional unemployment; whether they are a prelude to re-entry into the traditional workforce; the extent to which they are used to supplement retirement income, to offset the risk of 401(k)s, or to balance elder care responsibilities with the need to earn money; and what role the social aspects of work and its capacity to help structure one’s days play in the decision to take up an alternative work arrangement. These questions beg a more fundamental one: are these arrangements positive choices or options of last resort for older Americans? The created dataset will be made publicly available for use by other researchers and the project team expects the project to produce at least two peer reviewed papers, as well as a series of policy briefs and presentations aimed at both scholars and policymakers.

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