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Keywords:

  • women's part-time employment;
  • voluntary employment;
  • involuntary employment;
  • US women and work

This article presents a study of the extent to which type and duration of labour force attachment add to the explanatory power of psychological, demographic, and family household characteristics to predict voluntary (n=166) vs. involuntary part-time (n=160) employment of women in the United States. We use the terms ‘voluntary’ and ‘involuntary’ to reflect the woman's choice in accepting to work in paid part-time employment. In this context, voluntary part-time work is not meant to be construed as charitable, non-paid activities, but rather is construed as individuals who are working part-time but who would prefer to be working full-time, if a suitable job were available. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Labor Market Experience (NLSLME), we found that labour market attachment characteristics added little to predict part-time employment status (involuntary vs. voluntary) and had virtually no effect on the odds of any other correlates on employment status. The major exception was number of years of unemployment. The longer working women were previously unemployed, the greater the likelihood they were involuntarily employed in part-time jobs. In addition, we found that marriage and private sector employment decreased the likelihood of involuntary part-time employment.

Findings suggest that involuntarily part-time employed women appear to be ‘settling’ for what they can get, namely, part-time rather than full-time jobs and that unmarried part-timers may be viewed as a stigmatized or marginal group more likely to be employed in the public rather than private sector. Policy implications and future research are discussed.