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Temporary Help Agencies and the Advancement Prospects of Low Earners

In: Studies of Labor Market Intermediation

  • Fredrik Andersson
  • Harry J. Holzer
  • Julia Lane

In this paper we use a very large matched database on firms and employees to analyze the use of temporary agencies by low earners, and to estimate the impact of temp employment on subsequent employment outcomes for these workers. Our results show that, while temp workers have lower earnings than others while working at these agencies, their subsequent earnings are often higher – but only if they manage to gain stable work with other employers. Furthermore, the positive effects seem mostly to occur because those working for temp agencies subsequently gain access to higher-wage firms than do comparable low earners who do not work for temps. The positive effects we find seem to persist for up to six years beyond the period during which the temp employment occurred.

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This chapter was published in:
  • David H. Autor, 2009. "Studies of Labor Market Intermediation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number auto07-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 3595.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:3595
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.orgEmail:


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    1. David H. Autor & Susan N. Houseman, 2010. "Do Temporary-Help Jobs Improve Labor Market Outcomes for Low-Skilled Workers? Evidence from "Work First"," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 96-128, July.
    2. John M. Abowd & Robert H. Creecy & Francis Kramarz, 2002. "Computing Person and Firm Effects Using Linked Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data," Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Technical Papers 2002-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    3. H. J. Holzer & R. J. LaLonde, . "Job Change and Job Stability among Less-Skilled Young Workers," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1191-99, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    4. Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Efficiency Wage Theories: A Partial Evaluation," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1986, Volume 1, pages 235-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Ichino, Andrea & Mealli, Fabrizia & Nannicini, Tommaso, 2006. "From Temporary Help Jobs to Permanent Employment: What Can We Learn from Matching Estimators and their Sensitivity?," IZA Discussion Papers 2149, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. David Autor & Susan Houseman, 2005. "Temporary Agency Employment as a Way out of Poverty?," NBER Working Papers 11742, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Farber, Henry S., 1999. "Mobility and stability: The dynamics of job change in labor markets," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 37, pages 2439-2483 Elsevier.
    8. Julia Lane & Kelly S. Mikelson & Pat Sharkey & Doug Wissoker, 2003. "Pathways to work for low-income workers: The effect of work in the temporary help industry," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(4), pages 581-598.
    9. John M. Abowd & Francis Kramarz & David N. Margolis, 1994. "High Wage Workers and High Wage Firms," NBER Working Papers 4917, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Daniel Immergluck, 1996. "What employers want: Job prospects for less-educated workers," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 135-143, June.
    11. David H. Autor, 2000. "Why Do Temporary Help Firms Provide Free General Skills Training?," NBER Working Papers 7637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Abowd, John M. & Vilhuber, Lars, 2005. "The Sensitivity of Economic Statistics to Coding Errors in Personal Identifiers," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 23, pages 133-152, April.
    13. Alan B. Krueger & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Reflections on the Inter-Industry Wage Structure," NBER Working Papers 1968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Harry J. Holzer, 1986. "Informal Job Search and Black Youth Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 1860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Yannis M. Ioannides & Linda Datcher Loury, 2004. "Job Information Networks, Neighborhood Effects, and Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1056-1093, December.
    16. John J. Abowd & John Haltiwanger & Julia Lane, 2004. "Integrated Longitudinal Employer-Employee Data for the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 224-229, May.
    17. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
    18. Harry J. Holzer & Steven Raphael & Michael A. Stoll, 2006. "Employers in the Boom: How Did the Hiring of Less-Skilled Workers Change during the 1990s?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 283-299, May.
    19. Rebitzer, James B, 1993. "Radical Political Economy and the Economics of Labor Markets," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(3), pages 1394-434, September.
    20. Charles L. Schultze, 2003. "The Consumer Price Index: Conceptual Issues and Practical Suggestions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 3-22, Winter.
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