top of page

Honorable Mention, Distinguished Scholarly Monograph Award, ASA Labor & Labor Movements 


Everyone knows that work in America is not what it used to be. Layoffs, outsourcing, contingent work, disappearing career ladders-these are the new workplace realities for an increasing number of people. But why? In The Temp Economy, Erin Hatton takes one of the best-known icons of the new economy-the temp industry-and finds that it is more than just a symbol of this degradation of work. The temp industry itself played an active role in this decline-and not just for temps.  Industry leaders started by inventing the "Kelly Girl," exploiting 1950s gender stereotypes to justify low wages, minimal benefits, and chronic job insecurity. But they did not stop with Kelly Girls. From selling human "business machines" in the 1970s to "permatemps" in the 1990s, the temp industry relentlessly portrayed workers as profit-busting liabilities that hurt companies' bottom lines even in boom times. These campaigns not only legitimized the widespread use of temps, they also laid the cultural groundwork for a new corporate ethos of ruthless cost cutting and mass layoffs.


Succinct, highly readable, and drawn from a vast historical record of industry documents, The Temp Economy is a one-stop resource for anyone interested in the temp industry or the degradation of work in postwar America. 

Reviews of The Temp Economy


"This landmark study is essential for experts and laypersons seeking to understand the twentieth century's wide-scale transformation of work."

-Irene Padavic, author of Women and Men at Work


"Erin Hatton has written a compelling social history of how the temporary help industry evolved and popularized a new employment model of the contingent worker, and thereby contributed to the degradation and transformation of work in the late twentieth century."
-Arne L. Kalleberg, author of Good Jobs, Bad Jobs  


"Erin Hatton has written a persuasive account of how the temporary employment industry grew…into a robust industry that was central in redefining employment relations."
-American Journal of Sociology


"This book is a must-read for students of organizations, occupations, and work; labor markets and unions; sex and gender; and economic sociology."
-Contemporary Sociology 


"The Temp Economy is an especially original and compelling study.... Hatton’s sophisticated and succinct book justly positions the temporary staffing industry as a leading protagonist in the story about the transformation and degradation of work in the United States."


"A detailed, lively, and convincing account… I appreciate this book not only for the content but also for the fine example of how to write qualitative analysis."
-Work and Occupations


"This interesting book is useful for scholars interested in gender, work and occupations, labor organizing, the economy, and research methods... The book is ideal for showing the explanatory power of content analyses."
-Gender & Society


"The rise of temporary employment is one of the most contested and influential transformations of the post-World War II era. The Temp Economy...offers a unique cultural view of this labour market phenomenon."
-Work, Employment & Society


"Compelling... Hatton brings together a wealth of material on temporary agency work in the United States." 
-Industrial & Labor Relations Review


"Masterfully written... The Temp Economy will be essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the process that led to the degraded job prospects of today's economy."
-Journal of American History


"Engaging... Anyone interested in the plight of American workers and modern employment practices should enjoy this book."
-American Historical Review


"Hatton fills a lacuna in the literature."
-Labor Studies Journal


"A fascinating tale... This book should be required reading not only for students and scholars of American labor but also for those who teach and learn in business schools."
-Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas


"Hatton has marshaled an impressive trove of previously unexamined data to illuminate the broader cultural dimensions implicated in the rise of the non-standard work paradigm."
-Labor History


"Whatever you do, I implore you, do not read this book in the waiting area of an actual temp agency! … Here's what happened: I was reading this brilliantness wherever, and whenever, I could (on the bus, at the mall, at the bus stop waiting for the bus to take me to said mall) and I, unfortunately, found myself still reading this brilliantness in the waiting area of a temp agency… I could go on for days and, essentially, quote the entire book, but I don't want to give too much away as The Temp Economy is such a fascinating read."

bottom of page