Changing Employment and Work Schedule Patterns over the 30 Working Years—A Sequential Cluster Analysis

Wen Jui Han, Julia Shu Huah Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. As labor markets have become increasingly volatile and precarious since 1980s, more workers are susceptible to working conditions such as unpredictable and unstable hours, threatening their economic security. However, our understanding of employment patterns regarding the changes in work schedules over our working lives has yet been established. This study builds our knowledge in this area by paying attention to how social positions may shape the specific work schedule patterns over our working lives. Methods. We used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-1979 (NLSY79) to examine our research questions. NLSY79 follows a nationally representative sample of United States men and women between the ages of 14 and 22 when first interviewed in 1979. The participants were then interviewed annually until 1994 and then biennially thereafter. We first conducted a sequence analysis to examine work schedule patterns between ages 22 and 53 (n = 7987). We then used a multinomial logit regression to examine the factors contributing to specific work schedule patterns, with attention to social position. Results. Our sequence analysis results suggest five work schedule patterns during 31 years of adult life: working only standard hours (25%), mainly standard hours with some portions of nonstandard hours (38%), standard hours during early working years but transitioning to either largely variable or mainly evening or night hours (14% and 13%), and mostly not working (10%). Our multinomial logit analysis indicates that being non-Hispanic Black, having a high school degree or below, or having ever experienced poverty or welfare by age 23 were more likely to have a nonstandard work schedule pattern than their counterparts. Conclusions. Our analysis underscores the dynamic employment patterns over our working lives, with some groups more likely than others to be engaged in nonstandard or volatile work schedules. Importantly, the groups likely to be subject to nonstandard work schedules also tend to have relatively disadvantaged social positions, thus worsening their vulnerability in securing work characterized by stability and economic security.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13677
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • NLSY79
  • employment patterns
  • longitudinal
  • sequence analysis
  • work schedules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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