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The New Employment Contract and Worker Health in the United States.

October 2006

Richard H. Price, University of Michigan, and Sarah A. Burgard, University of Michigan

Download 'working_paper06-41.pdf'.


Historically there have been three arenas of policy debate in the United States relevant to the health effects of employment for workers and their families. First, the physical environment of the workplace and its health impact has been a major arena of policy debate. The pathways from the physical environment to health include exposure to chemical and biological hazards leading to disease, as well as physical risks to safety. Second, the demanding nature of work activities themselves has also been the topic of policy debate. The pathway from work activity to health most often implicates work stressors involving too little task control and high levels of demand, and the biological consequences of stress in response to work demands.

Most recently, the contractual nature of jobs, their insecurity and their lack of benefits, has become a third major arena of policy debate. Here the pathway to ill health involves the stressful anticipation of involuntary job loss, the stresses associated with economic hardship following job loss, and the health-compromising conditions associated with managing part time nonstandard jobs that lack predictability, adequate benefits, and adequate income.

Employment, Unemployment, and the Labor Market, Health, Health Insurance, and Health Care