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Do Temporary-Help Jobs Improve Labor Market Outcomes for Low-Skilled Workers? Evidence from 'Work First'

  • David Autor


    (MIT and NBER)

  • Susan Houseman


    (W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research)

Temporary-help jobs offer rapid entry into paid employment, but they are typically brief and it is unknown whether they foster longer-term employment. We utilize the unique structure of Detroit's welfare-to-work program to identify the effect of temporary-help jobs on labor market advancement. Exploiting the rotational assignment of welfare clients to numerous nonprofit contractors with differing job placement rates, we find that temporary-help job placements do not improve and may diminish subsequent earnings and employment outcomes among participants. In contrast, job placements with direct-hire employers substantially raise earnings and employment over a seven quarter follow-up period.

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Paper provided by W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in its series Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles with number 05-124.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:upj:weupjo:05-124
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  1. Susan N. Houseman & Arne L. Kalleberg & George A. Erickcek, 2001. "The Role of Temporary Help Employment in Tight Labor Markets," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 01-73, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  2. Andersson Joona, Pernilla & Wadensjö, Eskil, 2004. "Temporary Employment Agencies: A Route for Immigrants to Enter the Labour Market?," IZA Discussion Papers 1090, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  6. Gerfin, Michael & Lechner, Michael & Steiger, Heidi, 2002. "Does Subsidised Temporary Employment Get the Unemployed Back to Work? An Econometric Analysis of Two Different Schemes," IZA Discussion Papers 606, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Booth, Alison L. & Francesconi, Marco & Frank, Jeff, 2000. "Temporary Jobs: Stepping Stones or Dead Ends?," IZA Discussion Papers 205, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  11. 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.
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  14. David H. Autor, 2001. "Why Do Temporary Help Firms Provide Free General Skills Training?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1409-1448, November.
  15. Michael Kvasnicka, 2005. "Does Temporary Agency Work Provide a Stepping Stone to Regular Employment?," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2005-031, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  16. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
  17. Andrea Ichino & Fabrizia Mealli & Tommaso Nannicini, 2005. "Temporary Work Agencies in Italy: A Springboard Toward Permanent Employment?," Giornale degli Economisti, GDE (Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia), Bocconi University, vol. 64(1), pages 1-27, September.
  18. Susan N. Houseman, 2001. "Why employers use flexible staffing arrangements: Evidence from an establishment survey," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 149-170, October.
  19. David H. Autor, 2003. "Outsourcing at Will: The Contribution of Unjust Dismissal Doctrine to the Growth of Employment Outsourcing," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-42, January.
  20. O Blanchard & A Landier, 2002. "The Perverse Effects of Partial Labour Market Reform: fixed--Term Contracts in France," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(480), pages F214-F244, June.
  21. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2005. "Experimental Analysis Of Neighborhood Effects On Youth," Working Papers 249, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  22. Jeffrey R. Kling & B. Jeffrey Liebman, 2004. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects on Youth," Working Papers 862, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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