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Labor Economics

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Selected Essays in Economic Theory

Abram Bergson has been making significant contributions to economic theory since the 1930s, and this selection of fifteen of his most influential essays exhibits in large part the breadth of his range. The book's primary focus, however, is on those aspects of economic theory to which he has given sustained attention over the whole course of his career: welfare and socialist economics.

Part I, Social Welfare and the Economic Optimum, presents the author's seminal early article on the concept of social welfare and two additional essays on the relation of social choice theory to welfare economics and on the import of taste differences for optimal income distribution.

In Part II, Problems of Measurement, the critique of Frisch's methods of marginal utility measurement that has become a classic is followed by three essays on consumer's surplus analysis, including the frequently cited paper on monopoly welfare losses. A final paper elaborates for factor productivity calculation the index number theory that was developed by Moorsteen and the author for output measurement.

In Part III, Public Enterprise and Socialist Economics, two surveys of the theory of socialist economics that are standard references in the field are followed by an essay on the politics of socialist efficiency and by two studies of public enterprise, one on optimal pricing and the other on managerial riskbearing.

Finally, Part IV, Prices, Income, and Employment, consists of two papers that represent an early effort to integrate macro- and microeconomics, a matter that has since become of wide interest.

The Economics and Politics of Private Pensions

Why are pension funds so large and benefits so small? This examination of the 120-year-old American system of privatized social insurance—often called, at 1.7 trillion dollars, the biggest lump of money in the world—reveals that the system fails to provide adequate retirement income security, its most prominent goal, and, in fact, its greatest influence is in supplying funds to U.S. capital markets.

Linking market forces, historical movements, and social norms in the evolution of pensions, Ghilarducci's study is the first to focus on all major aspects of the system. Its trenchant analysis of the many sides of pensions and pension policy addresses questions of whom the system benefits, its direct and social costs, and the possibilities of reforms that would take into account the related problems of capital formation and retirement income.

Ghilarducci describes the history of pension funds and the involvement of unions in bargaining. She takes up the "moral hazard" involved in the conflicting interests of corporations and their employees, tackling issues of information availability and inequality of pension distribution based on sex, race, and job hierarchy. And in two chapters, each focusing on corporate and union uses of pension funds, she covers such topics as tax breaks, the effect of corporate takeovers, the use of pensions to pay back debt, and the kinds of skimming that can occur despite government regulation of pension activities. Ghilarducci concludes by presenting an ideal pension plan that would benefit both employer and employee and by offering predictions about pension plans of the future. Teresa Ghilarducci is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame.

Edited by Elhanan Helpman

Traditionally, economists have considered the accumulation of conventional inputs such as labor and capital to be the primary force behind economic growth. Now, however, many macroeconomists place technological progress at the center of the growth process. This shift is due to new theoretical developments that allow researchers to link microeconomic aspects of the innovation process with macroeconomic outcomes.

Most economists have viewed technological progress as an incremental process. A few have focused on the role of drastic innovations—those that introduce a discontinuity. The contributors to this volume are concerned with the type of drastic innovation called general purpose technologies (GPTs). A GPT has the potential to affect the entire economic system and can lead to far-reaching changes in such social factors as working hours and constraints on family life. Examples of GPTs are the steam engine, electricity, and the computer.

The study of GPTs is relatively new. A universal theoretical framework for dealing with GPTs does not yet exist. The essays in this book both further our understanding of GPT-driven economic growth and lay the foundation for further developments of the available frameworks.

Contributors:
Philippe Aghion, Ciff Bekar, Timothy Bresnahan, Kenneth Carlaw, Alfonso Gambardella, Richard G. Harris, Elhanan Helpman, Peter Howitt, Richard G. Lipsey, Kevin M. Murphy, Craig Riddell, Paul Romer, Nathan Rosenberg, Manuel Trajtenberg.

From Malthus to Becker, the economic approach to population growth and its interactions with the surrounding economic environment has undergone a major transformation. Population Economics elucidates the theory behind this shift and the consequences for economic policy.Razin and Sadka systematically examine the microeconomic implications of people's decisions about how many children to have and how to provide for them on population trends and social issues of population policy. The authors analyze how these decisions affect labor supply, consumption, savings and bequests, investments in human capital, and economic growth, along with related new issues such as migration and income redistribution across generations, in an integrated microeconomic framework.Population Economics is a thoroughly modern treatment of population economics as a field in public economics. It integrates and extends Marc Nerlove's Household and Economy: Welfare Economics of Endogenous Fertility, as well as work written jointly with colleagues that has appeared in various journals and other publications.


The Wage Curve casts doubt on some of the most important ideas in macroeconomics, labor economics, and regional economics. According to macroeconomic orthodoxy, there is a relationship between unemployment and the rate of change of wages. According to orthodoxy in labor economics and regional economics, an area's wage is positively related to the amount of joblessness in the area. The Wage Curve suggests that both these beliefs are incorrect.

Blanchflower and Oswald argue that the stable relationship is a downward-sloping convex curve linking local unemployment and the level of pay. Their study, which is one of the most intensive in the history of social science, is based on random samples that provide computerized information on nearly four million people from sixteen countries. Throughout, the authors systematically present evidence and possible explanations for their empirical "law" of economics.


A Blueprint for the New Labor Market

The American labor market faces many deep-rooted problems, including persistence of a large low-wage sector, worsening inequality in earnings, employees' lack of voice in the workplace, and the need of employers to maximize flexibility if they are to survive in an increasingly competitive market. The impetus for this book is the absence of a serious national debate about these issues.

The book represents nearly three years of deliberation by more than 250 people drawn from business, labor, community groups, academia, and government. It traces today's labor-market policy and laws back to the New Deal and to a second wave of social regulation that began in the 1960s. Underlying the current system are assumptions about who is working, what workers do, and how much job security workers enjoy. Economic and social changes have rendered those assumptions invalid and have resulted in mismatches between labor institutions and efficient and equitable deployment of the workforce, as well as between commitments to the labor market and family responsibilities. This book should launch a national dialogue on how to update our policies and institutions to catch up with the changes in the nature of work, in the workforce, and in the economy.

A New Look at the Developing World

Most of the world's people live in "developing" economies, as do most of the world's poor. The predominant means of economic development is economic growth. In this book Gary Fields asks to what extent and in what circumstances economic growth improves the material standard of living of a country's people. Most development economists agree that economic growth raises the incomes of people in all parts of the income distribution and lowers the poverty rate. At the same time, some groups lose out because of changes accompanying economic growth. Fields examines these beliefs, asking what variables should be measured to determine whether progress is being made and what policies and circumstances cause some countries to do better than others. He also shows how the same data can be interpreted to reach different, even conflicting, conclusions. Using both theoretical and empirical approaches, Fields defines and examines inequality, poverty, income mobility, and economic well-being. Finally, he considers various policies for broad-based growth.

Copublished with the Russell Sage Foundation.

Law, Politics, and the NLRB--A Memoir

"This book is about the relationship between law, a quasi-judicial administrative agency, and politics, in the volatile arena of labor policy and the balance of power between labor and management.... It is about the rule of law and the role of labor law in a modern economy."
from the Introduction

From 1994 to 1998, William B. Gould IV served as Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. One of only three NLRB Chairmen to come from an academic background, he quickly realized that he was an outsider in a very political world. In this compelling memoir, Gould describes the tribulations of trying to assure impartial administration of federal labor laws while faced with a hostile, Republican Congress. He describes his difficult confirmation process and wrenching Congressional hearings, particularly the one over Proposition 226, a ballot initiative that required unions to get explicit authorization from all represented workers prior to expending dues for political purposes. He tells how the behavior of both Board members and members of Congress, guided by self-interest and rigid ideology, contributed to the Board's problems. He also recounts the positive strides the NLRB made during his tenure, despite the turmoil. The book provides an insider's view of what goes on behind the closed doors in our nation's capital, including discussions with members of Congress, the White House, and President Bill Clinton.

Gender, Work, and Family in the United States and Japan


In a time of societal transition, women and men around the globe struggle to combine careers and family in new ways. However, conventional work and family structures and power imbalances between women and men often reinforce traditional gender stereotypes in both home and office.

In an effort to understand the roots of gender inequality, Myra Strober and Agnes Miling Kaneko Chan conducted an extensive survey of the 1981 graduates of Stanford and Tokyo Universities—parallel populations in historically very different cultures. First-hand comments from the graduates are combined with quantitative analyses for a lively examination of the career and family choices of these highly educated women and men. Contrasting the realities of household responsibilities, childcare, and discrimination in the workplace with the graduates' original expectations, the authors find that the road to more egalitarian work and family arrangements winds uphill all the way.

The authors take a fresh look at the widespread belief that U.S. gender equity is light years ahead of Japan's. The elite group of Japanese and Americans in their study describe surprisingly similar experiences as they faced the job market and began raising families. In both countries, more balanced gender roles will require improved public and business policies, individual strategies, and collective action.


Evidence from the British Birth Cohort Studies


For most of recorded history, men's pay has tended to be higher than women's. This both reflects and underpins gender roles, with men's authority more highly valued socially as well as economically. In Unequal Pay for Women and Men, Heather Joshi and Pierella Paci look at why gender pay inequality matters. They argue that no amount of training, maternity and parental leave, or child care provisions will change women's economic status if pay treatment remains unequal—if the market values men's time more than women's.

The book is the result of an extensive study of the relative wages of British men and women between 1978 and 1991. Using two large and extremely detailed longitudinal data sets, one of women and men born in 1946, and the other of women and men born in 1958, the authors examine the evolution of the pay gap over time and evaluate the success of policies designed to establish equal pay.

Although the book focuses mainly on Britain, the results are of interest to labor economists in other countries, as well as to researchers in other fields studying the changing role of women in the labor force.


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