Upjohn Author ORCID Identifier


Publication Date



Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 03-90

**Published Version**

In Low-Wage America: How Employers are Reshaping Opportunity in the Workplace, edited by Eileen Appelbaum, Annette Bernhardt, and Richard J. Murnane. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003, pp. 368-403




We examine why employers use temporary agency and contract company workers and the implications of these practices for the wages, benefits, and working conditions of workers in low-skilled labor markets. Through intensive case studies in manufacturing (automotive supply), services (hospitals), and public sector (primary and secondary schools) industries, we define the circumstances under which these workers are likely to be adversely affected, minimally affected, or even benefited by such outsourcing. Adverse effects on compensation are clearest when companies substitute agency temporaries or contract company workers for regular employees on a long-term basis because low-skilled workers within the organization receive relatively high compensation and employment and labor law or workers and their unions do not block companies from such substitution. Often, however, organizations only contract out management functions or utilize agency temporaries for brief periods of time, with little direct effect on in-house, low-skilled workers. Moreover, employers often use temporary agencies to screen workers for permanent positions. Because temporary agencies lower the cost to employers of using workers with poor work histories or other risky characteristics, agencies may benefit these workers by giving them opportunities to try out for positions they otherwise might not have had.

Issue Date

April 2002; Revised July 2002


Paper prepared for the Case Studies Conference sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, May 2-3, 2002, in New York.

Subject Areas

LABOR MARKET ISSUES; Employment relationships; Temporary employment; ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; Industry studies; UNEMPLOYMENT, DISABILITY, and INCOME SUPPORT PROGRAMS; Poverty and income support; Low wage labor markets


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Erickcek, George A., Susan N. Houseman, and Arne L. Kalleberg. 2002. "The Effects of Temporary Services and Contracting Out on Low-Skilled Workers: Evidence from Auto Suppliers, Hospitals, and Public Schools." Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 03-90. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. https://doi.org/10.17848/wp03-90