Little Evidence of the ACA Increasing Part-Time Work So Far

A woman serving a muffin in a bakery.

Some reports have suggested that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already triggering an increase in part-time workers. Is this true?

So far, the available evidence suggests those claims are false. This Quick Strike analysis by the Urban Institute suggests that there is "no evidence that the ACA had already started increasing part-time work before 2014."

If the ACA was likely to have increased part-time work, how might it have happened?

Primarily in two ways:

  • Employers with 50 or more employees will be subject to penalties under the ACA if they fail to comply with the act's employer mandate—the requirement that they provide adequate and affordable coverage for their full-time employees. In anticipation of the mandate, some suggest, employers are seeking to avoid or reduce penalties either by cutting employee hours to below 30—the threshold at which an employee is considered full-time—or hiring more part-time workers.
  • Employees, offered access to health insurance under the ACA—including subsidies for those with family incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level—might be voluntarily choosing part-time employment because they no longer need the employer-sponsored health insurance available only to full-time employees.

Urban Institute researchers say their analysis offers more likely explanations. Their research indicates transitions between full-time and part-time work are consistent with historical patterns. Moreover, "These findings suggest that the increase in part-time work in 2014 is not ACA-related, but more likely due to a slower than normal recovery of full-time jobs following the great recession."