Inadequacy inequality: the distribution and consequences of part-time underemployment in the US

Jaeseung Kim, Lonnie Golden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Despite some attention devoted to part-time employment with insufficient or inadequate work hours, research is still too limited on how the burden of underemployment is distributed disproportionately on vulnerable workers and its implications for financial well-being and work-family balance. Furthermore, scarce research considers the role of control over work hours in the context of worker underemployment. Using unique data and measures constructed from a nationally representative survey of the 2006 and 2016 US General Social Survey, we find that being part-time underemployed is concentrated toward workers who are minority, lower income, and employed in certain service occupations. Multivariate analysis reveals that, relative to both part-time workers satisfied with their hours and to full-time workers, the part-time underemployed endure significantly greater risks of facing lower financial status and financial dis-satisfaction. Part-time underemployed workers also experience more frequent work-to-family conflict, compared to other part-time workers, and no less than otherwise comparable full-time workers. Their elevated work-family conflict is intensified when having limited control over their work hours. We derive implications of these findings for preventative public policies that would help curb both the extent and the harms of underemployment, recently rendered even more necessary by its rise during the 2020 recession.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-111
Number of pages28
JournalCommunity, Work and Family
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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