Labor Market Volatility Today: From Understanding Volatility to Reducing Financial Insecurity

Jan 18, 2024

1:00 PM - 2:15 PM (GMT-5)



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Large numbers of American households feel financially insecure, because their incomes vary month to month, quarter to quarter over the course of a year. Such economic volatility is linked to adverse health outcomes, financial, housing, and food insecurity. It can impact children who grow up in these families, including being vulnerable to falling into poverty or suffering from other unmet needs.

Over two-thirds of individuals experiencing unstable incomes did so as a result of either irregular work schedules or periods of unemployment. Yet, most of these individuals report that they would prefer a stable but low income to a somewhat greater overall income with poor job or work hours security.


Pia Malaney
Associate Director of Research, Institute for New Economic Thinking


Daniel Schneider
Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy and Professor of Sociology at Harvard University

Daniel Schneider is the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor in the Department of Sociology. Professor Schneider’s research focuses on precarious work, social demography, and inequality. As Co-Director of the Shift Project, he has co-led the creation of a novel dataset tracking the working experiences of service-sector workers. His work examines racial/ethnic and gender inequalities in job quality, the effects of precarious work on the economic security and wellbeing of workers and their families, and the effects of labor standards on working conditions. Professor Schneider holds a PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Princeton University and a BA from Brown University. Prior to joining HKS, he was a faculty member in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Julie Cai
Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Julie Cai is an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), where she works on a variety of issues relating to labor market conditions, racial and gender disparities, economic well-being, and social policy. Her recent work examines the U.S. safety net’s buffering effects in the context of job/work-hour instability. Cai earned her PhD in social welfare with a minor in public affairs from University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is an external affiliate with the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy and was previously a visiting fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Her research interests include household income volatility, job quality, economic inequality, and poverty.

Peter Ganong
Associate Professor of Public Policy, University of Chicago Harris School

Peter Ganong is an associate professor of public policy at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. He is an economist who studies the effect of public policies on people facing difficult financial circumstances. In his research on the foreclosure crisis, he found that most borrowers defaulted due to insufficient liquidity and that many foreclosures could have been averted through liquidity-focused modifications to mortgages. He also has found that unemployment benefits play a crucial role in sustaining the consumption of unemployed workers. In ongoing work, he is studying the effects of racial wealth inequality and the effects of high liquidity on the US economy. Ganong is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He received his BA and PhD in economics from Harvard. He has spent two years in public service: one at the White House Council of Economic Advisers and one at the City of Boston’s Citywide Analytics Team. He was a Visiting Assistant Professor at MIT during fall of 2021.

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