REPORT Affordable Care ActHealth and Social ProgramsHealthcareUnited States

Voluntary Part-Time Employment and the Affordable Care Act: What Do Workers Do With Their Extra Time?


Hannah Archambault and Dean Baker, October 2018

The main purpose of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was to extend health insurance coverage to more individuals. Another potential benefit of the ACA, however, was to free up workers to find jobs that better fit their needs, by ending their dependence on employer-provided health insurance. There is considerable evidence indicating that before the implementation of the ACA, many workers stayed in jobs that they otherwise would have left solely because they needed the health insurance provided by the employer. This was likely to be especially true of workers with children, workers who either have a disability or have a family member with a disability, and older workers. By increasing access to insurance outside of employment, either through Medicaid or the health care exchanges, the ACA made it easier for workers to get jobs that better fit their needs.

There was a substantial increase in voluntary part-time employment in the years immediately after the main provisions of the ACA took effect, which is evidence of this effect on the labor market. The rise in voluntary part-time employment was largest among young people and was especially pronounced for young women.

This study uses data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) to assess how people voluntarily employed part-time use the time freed up from work. The ATUS relies on detailed time diaries compiled by respondents to determine how people use their time.

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