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Labor Economics

Essays in Honor of Michael J. Piore
Edited by Paul Osterman

In Economy in Society, five prominent social scientists honor Michael J. Piore in original essays that explore key topics in Piore’s work and make significant independent contributions in their own right. Piore is distinctive for his original research that explores the interaction of social, political, and economic considerations in the labor market and in the economic development of nations and regions. The essays in this volume reflect this rigorous interdisciplinary approach to important social and economic questions.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Soviet Jews emigrated in large numbers to Israel. Over the next ten years, Israel absorbed approximately 900,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, an influx that equaled about twenty percent of the Israeli population. Most of these new immigrants of working age were college-educated and highly skilled. Once in Israel, they were eligible for a generous package of benefits, including housing subsidies, Hebrew language training, and vocational education.

Full employment used to be an explicit goal of economic policy in most of the industrialized world. Some countries even achieved it. In Back to Full Employment, economist Robert Pollin argues that the United States–today faced with its highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression–should put full employment back on the agenda.

A New Keynesian Perspective

The past fifteen years have witnessed the rise of the New Keynesian model as a framework of reference for the analysis of fluctuations and stabilization policies. That framework, which combines the rigor and internal consistency of dynamic general equilibrium models with such typically Keynesian assumptions as monopolistic competition and nominal rigidities, makes possible a meaningful, welfare-based analysis of the effects of monetary policy rules.

In The Minimum Wage and Labor Market Outcomes, Christopher Flinn argues that in assessing the effects of the minimum wage (in the United States and elsewhere), a behavioral framework is invaluable for guiding empirical work and the interpretation of results. Flinn develops a job search and wage bargaining model that is capable of generating labor market outcomes consistent with observed wage and unemployment duration distributions, and also can account for observed changes in employment rates and wages after a minimum wage change.

Microeconomic Structure and Macroeconomic Implications

In the early 1990s, trade and labor economists, noting the fall in wages for low-skilled workers relative to high-skilled workers, began to debate the impact of trade on wages. This debate—which led to a sometimes heated exchange on the role of trade versus the role of technological change in explaining wage movements—continues today, with the focus now shifting to workers in the middle of the wage distribution.

What Response from U.S. Economic Policy?

It is no surprise that many fearful American workers see the call center operator in Bangalore or the factory worker in Guangzhou as a threat to their jobs. The emergence of China and India (along with other, smaller developing countries) as economic powers has doubled the supply of labor to the integrated world economy.

Winner of the 1998 Leo Melamed Prize sponsored by theJournal of BusinessContrary to popular opinion, human resources, in general, and personnel, in particular, are well-suited to economic analysis. Edward Lazear, who founded the subfield of personnel economics, provides a quick introduction for economists who have not studied the area.

Minimum wages exist in more than one hundred countries, both industrialized and developing. The United States passed a federal minimum wage law in 1938 and has increased the minimum wage and its coverage at irregular intervals ever since; in addition, as of the beginning of 2008, thirty-two states and the District of Columbia had established a minimum wage higher than the federal level, and numerous other local jurisdictions had in place "living wage" laws.

In this pithy and provocative book, the noted economist Daniel Cohen offers his analysis of the global shift to a post-industrial era. If it was once natural to speak of industrial society, Cohen writes, it is more difficult to speak meaningfully of post-industrial "society." The solidarity that once characterized industrial society no longer exists. The different components of large industrial enterprises have been systematically disassembled: tasks considered nonessential are assigned to subcontractors; engineers are grouped together in research sites, distant from the workers.