Skip to content
CSDE Seminar Series

Population Research Discovery Seminars

Understanding Trends in Mothers’ Work Schedules in the U.S., 1989-2017

Alejandra Ros Pilarz, PhD, Assistant Professor, Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Moderated by:

Jennie Romich, Director, West Coast Poverty Center; Associate Professor, UW Department of Sociology


Register for Zoom Seminar HERE

12:30-1:30 PM PT


West Coast Poverty Center

As mothers’ labor force participation rates increased dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century, the economy and labor market changed in fundamental ways to make jobs more precarious and polarized than in previous decades. In particular, the growth of the service sector and rise of the “24/7 economy” led to an increase in jobs with nonstandard schedules outside of the traditional Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm work week. Work schedules have also become more unstable or irregular and unpredictable, particularly in low-skilled, low-wage jobs. This implies that mothers today are more likely to be working nonstandard schedules and more likely to be working nonstandard schedules out of necessity, rather than to maximize parental time with children. However, estimates of the prevalence of nonstandard schedules among mothers in the U.S. are outdated and vary substantially across studies. The purpose of this study is to test the hypothesis that mothers’ employment in jobs with nonstandard schedules, particularly those with irregular shifts, has been increasing over the past 30 years and to examine whether this corresponds with an increase in tag-team parenting. We also examine whether nonstandard schedules are increasingly concentrated among less socio-economically advantaged mothers and the extent to which mothers who work nonstandard schedules increasingly report involuntary reasons for working those schedules.

Alejandra Ros Pilarz is an Assistant Professor at the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Pilarz’s research examines how parental employment, child care, and early education experiences contribute to child and family well-being, and the role of public policies in supporting low-income parents and their children’s development. Her current research projects include understanding how mothers’ work schedules have changed over the past 30 years and their implications for child health and development; estimating the effects of pregnancy accommodation laws on child and maternal health; and understanding changes in child care supply and child care subsidy use in the state of Wisconsin.