Microbusiness Job Quality

FIELD’s research has helped to document the strong role that microenterprise development organizations play in helping businesses that support and create new jobs. However, as we consider the post-recession circumstances facing low-income individuals, it has become clear that improving job quality is as great a challenge as creating new jobs.

As part of FIELD’s work to understand the value of microenterprise as an economic opportunity strategy, we set out to explore the quality of jobs supported by microenterprise development organizations through an in-depth, qualitative study, “Microbusinesses, Gainful Jobs,” published in an updated edition in August 2015. We used a framework developed by our colleagues in the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, which notes that good jobs “raise the floor and build ladders.”

Partnering with the members of the Accion US Network, we interviewed 104 microbusiness workers – people who worked for businesses financed by Accion. The interviews explored key aspects of job quality, including wages, hours, scheduling stability and flexibility, benefits, opportunities to build skills, and more. Key findings included:

  • 48% of workers earned wages above the $11.73 “low-wage” threshold.
  • 80% of workers had stable schedules, and 87% had some flexibility in scheduling.
  • 67% of workers saw opportunities for growth in their jobs.
  • The businesses provide jobs for those who struggle most in the US economy: individuals with disabilities, the formerly incarcerated, immigrants, seniors, and parents returning to the workforce.

FIELD’s findings from “Microbusinesses, Gainful Jobs” are featured in an interactive site at gainfuljobs.org. There you can explore the experiences of the microbusiness workers interviewed through quotes, videos, and infographics.

To learn more and to download the full report, visit: gainfuljobs.org.


FIELD thanks Accion for providing assistance in completing this study. Thanks also to the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, for helping envision initial research and providing funding, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, for funding the expansion of the research to three additional sites.