Editor's Choice| Volume 29, ISSUE 3, P205-212, May 2019

Multiple Job Holding and Mental Health among Low-Income Mothers

Published:March 01, 2019DOI:



      Studies have found considerable heterogeneity in the links between employment and mental health, finding that certain work conditions, such as nonstandard schedules and low job quality, are linked with poorer mental health. One largely overlooked facet of work is multiple job holding. In this article, we examine the link between multiple job holding and mental health among low-income mothers.


      We used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (n = 7,844 person-wave observations), a longitudinal cohort study (1999–2016) of mostly low-income mothers in 20 large U.S. cities, to examine the link between multiple job holding and maternal depression and life dissatisfaction.


      Across a number of different model specifications, we find that multiple job holding is associated with higher probabilities of depression (3–4 percentage points higher). We also find some weaker evidence that multiple job holding is associated with life dissatisfaction (2–4 percentage points higher). When we include measures of job quality and intensity, we continue to see an independent association between multiple job holding and mental health. We also find that the associations between multiple job holding and depression/life dissatisfaction are strongest for mothers who also work 45 hours or more per week, work nonstandard schedules, and have lower earnings.


      Our study suggests that multiple job holding is associated with a greater likelihood of experiencing depression and somewhat associated with greater life dissatisfaction and should be considered by mental health practitioners and researchers seeking to understand drivers of depression.
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      Angela Bruns, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow, University of Michigan Population Studies Center. Her research examines how social inequality impacts the health/economic well-being of low-income women and their families. She focuses on families' interactions with the labor market and mass incarceration.


      Natasha Pilkauskas, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan. Her research examines how public policies can improve the lives of low-income people, and in particular children.