September 2008

The use of alternative employment arrangements by small businesses: Evidence from the 2003 Survey of Small Business Finances

Traci L. Mach and John A. Holmes


According to the CPS, employees in alternative work arrangements make up over 10 percent of U.S. workers. Because of the pervasiveness of these types of arrangements, it is important to understand why firms are choosing to use them. Using data from the 2003 Survey of Small Business Finances, we model the firm's decision to use alternative employment arrangements using a large representative sample of small businesses in the U.S. In general, our results are similar to previous establishment-level studies that have examined the use of these types of employment arrangements. However, many of these previous studies have been narrow in scope because of data limitations. We find evidence to support each of the following hypotheses: 1) firms may be using alternative employment arrangements (AEA) in an attempt to generate cost savings by substituting standard employees with AEA employees when internal wages and benefit costs are high; 2) firms may be using AEA to meet irregular product demand constraints; and 3) firms may be using AEA to take advantage of economies of scale for certain tasks or services. Additionally, we present some additional findings that add to the relatively limited establishment level literature on alternative employment arrangements.

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Keywords: Alternative employment arrangements, Survey of Small Business Finances

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Last Update: October 19, 2020