Henly teaches courses on poverty, work and family policy, and social welfare. Her research focuses on the economic and caregiving strategies of low-income families, and the role of both public policy and informal networks in supporting parental employment and child care. In one line of research, Henly investigates the prevalence of precarious work schedules in the U.S. labor market and employer scheduling practices in the retail industry. In a second line of research, Henly studies the responses of parents, child care providers, and public policy to irregular and unpredictable work schedules. She considers how work shapes parental child care decision-making and child care search strategies, and how government child care subsidies support and complicate the employment and caregiving of working families. In other research, she has investigated questions related to the contribution of public assistance and informal social support to material hardship and family well-being. Henly’s research receives funding from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, and several private foundations such as the Ford Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Henly is co-director of the Employment Instability, Family Well-being, and Social Policy Network of the University of Chicago and is a member of the steering committee of the Administration for Children and Families' Child Care and Early Education Policy Research Consortium. She is also a faculty affiliate of the University of Chicago Center for Human Potential and Public Policy and research affiliate of the University of Michigan National Poverty Center and the University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
Discusses three conceptual frameworks for understanding parental child care decisions – a rational consumer choice framework, a heuristics and biases framework, and a social network framework – and reviews the major assumptions, contributions, and limitations of each. Presents a fourth integrated conceptual model, the accommodation model, that posits that rather than being a choice, child care decisions may be best thought of as accommodations to a complex set of circumstances that confront parents – especially low-income parents – who are managing the multiple demands of paid work and caregiving within highly constrained environments and limited economic means. Responds to policy and research interest in how parents make decisions about their children’s care.
Illustrates common scheduling practices in the retail industry by drawing from qualitative interviews with low-income mothers in retail jobs and human resource managers. Demonstrates how employer practices can introduce variability and unpredictability into the schedules of workers with young children and suggests that employee-driven schedule control, which in this sample is seldom available through formal policy, but rather made available at times through informal workplace practices, can temper instability of nonstandard and variable work schedules.
Finds that child care subsidy use is dynamic, spells are short with frequent movement off and on the subsidy program. Discusses how employment instability and administrative hassles explain subsidy dynamics and how subsidy exits are related to child care arrangement disruption, and movement to lower cost and less regulated care.
Draws on a set of studies to show how conventional flexibility options do not always map well onto hourly jobs, and in certain instances, may disadvantage workers by undermining their ability to earn an adequate living. Offers alternative approaches to implementing flexibility in hourly jobs when hours are scarce and fluctuating rather than long and rigid.
Presents findings from a study of female hourly retail workers indicating that schedule unpredictability fuels stress and work-to-family conflict regardless of how much input workers have into the timing of their work hours.
Describes the distribution of three dimensions of work schedules - advance schedule notice, fluctuating work hours, and schedule control - across early-career workers in hourly and non-hourly jobs, overall and separated by gender, regular work hours (full-time/part-time), race, and occupation. Suggests some implications of these descriptive findings for public policy and future research.