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Non-Standard Work

Grants to USA Scholars for Research Related to
the Development of Alternative Work Arrangements

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Russell Sage Foundation (RSF)

LOI Date:


Deadline Date:

03/04/19 2:00 PM ET / 11:00 AM PT


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Grants to USA scholars for innovative social sciences research addressing the increase of alternative work arrangements in the US workforce. Applicants must submit an LOI prior to submitting a full application. The Foundation invites proposals for research examining both the causes and consequences of alternative work arrangements.

The Foundation defines alternative work arrangements as temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers. The Foundation uses the terms non-standard employment and alternative work arrangements interchangeably. This initiative falls under RSF’s Future of Work Program and represents a special area of interest within the core program, which continues to encourage proposals on a broader range of labor market issues.

The Foundation is especially interested in novel uses of new or under-utilized data and the development of new methods for analyzing these data. Potential sources of data include the 2015 Survey of Enterprising and Informal Work Activities (EIWA) of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the 2017 Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS) of the Current Population Survey. Proposals to conduct field experiments, in-depth qualitative interviews, and ethnographies are also encouraged. Smaller projects might consist of exploratory fieldwork, a pilot study, or the analysis of existing data. RSF encourages methodological variety and inter-disciplinary collaboration. The foundation will consider proposals for cross-national research that has clear implications for the U.S. labor market.


Some research suggests that employment in standard jobs has been declining relative to that in alternative work arrangements. Yet, little is known about how this change affects workers. Some non-standard jobs may be good ones, paying well and giving workers control over the terms and conditions of work, and flexibility in how the work is performed. And some regular full-time (or standard) jobs are characterized by low pay, low security, and poor working conditions. Recent studies document an increased incidence of alternative work arrangements, with rapid increases among workers hired through contract firms. These studies find that non-standard employment is associated with fewer hours and lower wages compared to standard employment in similar jobs.

Also, even though growth in the online gig economy has been rapid, most non-standard work operates via traditional labor market intermediaries, rather than online. Among all on-line platform workers, “gig” earnings tend to be a secondary source of income with these workers experiencing substantial income volatility. Some research on domestic sub-contracting suggests that companies adopt this practice to reduce compensation and shift economic risk to workers.

Areas of Interest:

RSF, in collaboration with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, invites research proposals that will advance understanding of the causes and consequences of changes in the nature of employment, including the definition and measurement of non-standard employment, the implications of the rise in non-standard employment for labor force participation, income security, economic growth and innovation, and the wellbeing of workers and families.

Because the economy is evolving more rapidly than the federal statistical infrastructure, researchers are analyzing data from public and private sources (e.g., surveys, administrative sources from tax and social security records, financial transactions, social media, automatic sensors), and collecting their own data on firms and workers. The Foundation welcomes research that analyzes new data sources, including the EIWA and CWS.

Examples of the kinds of topics and questions that are of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

The Measurement and Classification of Non-Standard Work:

Surveys do not adequately capture the variety of arrangements under which workers are classified. Can the measurement of non-standard work arrangements and employer practices be improved using new data sources? Can findings from different data sources (e.g., the IRS and CPS data show divergent trends in self-employment) be reconciled?

Trends in Non-Standard Employment:

What proportion of the workforce is employed in “standard” jobs and how has this changed over time? To what extent are changes in non-standard employment due to secular trends and the business cycle? How do job tenure, job retention, and the probability of job loss differ for standard and non-standard employment?

Causes of the Increase in Alternative Work Arrangements:

What factors contributed to the decrease in standard jobs and the increase in non-standard ones? How prevalent is domestic outsourcing (by occupation/sector/overall), to what extent has it grown over time and how are workers affected? Why do firms contract out for certain functions and what is its impacts on job quality? To what extent is the choice of non-standard employment by firms a way to reduce their sharing of monopoly rents? What comprises a wage theory for alternative work arrangements? In the case of domestic outsourcing, does the causal arrow run from outsourcing to falling wages? Or are the workers whose wages are falling outsourced by parent firms to reduce their payroll and rents?

Effects of Non-Standard Employment on Workers:

What is the duration of periods of employment and idle periods for non-standard workers? Do they experience more volatility than workers in standard jobs with the same characteristics? To what extent has non-standard employment affected the labor force participation, wages, income trajectories, and income volatility of low- and moderately-skilled workers? What are the implications of non-standard employment for skills development, future labor market opportunities, family formation, savings or retirement decisions? How have workers’ perceptions and expectations about work and employment changed (i.e., what do they consider to be a “good job”)? How do employers evaluate workers who have held non-standard jobs? Are the effects different for high-skilled versus low-skilled non-standard workers, for men and women, younger and older workers, racial and ethnic minorities?

The Changing Social Contract:

To what extent do collective representation, democratic rights, and worker protections, including social insurance, differ between standard and non-standard employment? What are the implications of the emergence of new (i.e., technology) intermediaries for labor and employment laws? To what extent can portable benefits protect workers in non-standard employment? How do we define and measure voluntary and involuntary idleness in alternative work arrangements, given that there is no provision of unemployment insurance?

Funding Priority:

Projects that use newly-available data or make new linkages across data sources have a higher priority than projects that analyze only public use data from widely available data sets. For projects using publicly available data (e.g., any non-restricted Census, CPS, or ACS, PSID, ECLS or any other such dataset), the budget request cannot exceed $75,000 (including indirect costs).

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 183563

Estimated Size of Grant:

Project Grants are generally capped at $175,000, including 15% indirect costs. Projects that use publicly available data are capped at $75,000, including indirect costs.

Presidential grants are capped at $35,000 (no indirect costs). In rare circumstances, investigators may apply for a Presidential Grant of up to $50,000 (no indirect costs) when the proposed research project has special needs for gathering data (e.g.: qualitative research) or gaining access to restricted-use data.

For projects using publicly available data (e.g., any non-restricted Census, CPS, or ACS, PSID, ECLS or any other such dataset), the budget request cannot exceed $75,000 (including indirect costs). RSF will only consider budget requests that exceed this amount if the investigator can adequately explain why the project requires a higher amount.

Term of Contract:

Projects are limited to no more than two years; RSF may consider longer projects in exceptional circumstances.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:


All applicants (both PIs and Co-PIs) must have a Ph.D. or comparable terminal degree, or a strong career background that establishes their ability to conduct high-level, peer-reviewed scholarly research. RSF particularly encourages early career scholars to apply for Presidential grants. All nationalities are eligible to apply and applicants do not have to reside in the U.S. RSF does not accept applications for Project and Presidential Grants from doctoral or other graduate students, unless specified in a special RFP.

The Foundation does not:
-Provide support for sabbaticals or fellowships at other institutions, even if the PI will be working on an RSF project. We encourage investigators to consider the Foundation's Visiting Scholar Program if time is needed for completing a project.
-Support release time (course buy-outs) from teaching during the academic year.
-Provide support for any pre-doctoral or doctoral research (including dissertation research) with the exception of the Behavioral Economics Small Grants and special small grant competitions targeted at emerging scholars.
-Pay tuition remission for graduate or undergraduate students.
-Provide any support for personnel or other costs related to communications or dissemination or publication, including journal publication fees.
-Pay for travel for collaboration purposes or dissemination/presentation of findings (conference travel).
-Pay for the development of the data collection instrument and sample design as part of the proposed project.
-Allow generic costs, such as copying, printing, mailing, phone calls, information/computer services, etc., as these are typically considered to be a part of indirect costs.

Pre-Application Information:

Application Requirements:
Letter of Inquiry (LOI): All research grant applications must be preceded by a letter of inquiry to determine whether RSF’s present interests and funds permit consideration of a full proposal. LOIs must be submitted through the online portal directly by an eligible principal investigator or co principal investigator.

Only invited proposals will be considered.

Review Process and Grant Decisions:
RSF employs a rigorous multi-disciplinary review process at every stage of the application process. All letters of inquiry and proposals submitted to RSF are reviewed by program staff, external reviewers from multiple disciplines selected specifically for their expertise, members of one of the standing Advisory Committees, or some combination of these.

Key Dates:
-Letter of Inquiry Deadline: November 30, 2018 (2pm ET/11am PT)
-Invited Proposal Deadline: March 4, 2019 (2pm ET/11am PT)
-Funding Decision: June, 2019

The Foundation cannot guarantee a response to any questions submitted within 10 days of a deadline. Any applications submitted after the cut-off time will automatically be deferred to the next round of applications. This applies even if you submit your application 10 minutes late.

Upcoming Deadlines:

Eligibility Information and Application Requirements:

Budget Requirements:


Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Submit an LOI:

Russell Sage Foundation
112 E. 64th Street
New York, NY 10065

Nora Mitnick, Senior Grants Manager

URL for Full Text (RFP):

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