Member Publication: Choosing Bad Jobs: The Use of Nonstandard Work as a Commitment Device

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Laura Adler:

Adler, Laura. 2020. “Choosing Bad Jobs: The Use of Nonstandard Work as a Commitment Device.” Work and Occupations, Online First.

Abstract

With nonstandard work on the rise, workers are increasingly forced into bad jobs—jobs that are low-paying, part-time, short-term, and dead-end. But some people, especially in cultural industries, embrace this kind of work. To understand why some might choose bad jobs when better options are available, this paper examines the job preferences of aspiring artists, who often rely on bad day jobs as they attempt to achieve economic success in the arts. Using interviews with 68 college-educated artists, I find that their preferences are informed not only by utility and identity considerations—two factors established in the literature—but also by the value of bad jobs as commitment devices, which reinforce dedication to career aspirations. The case offers new insights into the connection between jobs and careers and enriches the concept of the commitment device with a sociological perspective, showing that these devices are not one-time contracts but ongoing practices.

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