Inadequacy Inequality: The Distribution and Consequences of Part-time Underemployment in the US

28 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2021 Last revised: 18 Jun 2021

See all articles by Jaeseung Kim

Jaeseung Kim

University of Chicago; University of South Carolina

Lonnie Golden

Pennsylvania State University - Abington College; Economic Policy Institute; Project for Middle Class Renewal

Date Written: June 15, 2021


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.

Keywords: Underemployment; Involuntary Part-time; Part-time employment; Work-family Conflict; Financial Well-being; Control over Work Hours

Suggested Citation

Kim, Jaeseung and Golden, Lonnie, Inadequacy Inequality: The Distribution and Consequences of Part-time Underemployment in the US (June 15, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Jaeseung Kim

University of Chicago ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Lonnie Golden (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Abington College ( email )

1600 Woodland Rd.
Abington, PA 19001
United States
215-881-7596 (Phone)
215-881-7333 (Fax)

Economic Policy Institute ( email )

1660 L Street NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Project for Middle Class Renewal ( email )

1408 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801
United States

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