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Labor Economics

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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.

Black-, Asian-, and White-Owned Businesses in the United States

Thirteen million people in the United States--roughly one in ten workers--own a business. And yet rates of business ownership among African Americans are much lower and have been so throughout the twentieth century. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, businesses owned by African Americans tend to have lower sales, fewer employees and smaller payrolls, lower profits, and higher closure rates. In contrast, Asian American-owned businesses tend to be more successful.

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.

Contrary 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. He clearly and engagingly summarizes his and others' work that has taken place during the past fifteen years, including recent advances in the field.

Job Creation and Job Destruction in a Growing Economy

Every working day in the United States, 90,000 jobs disappear—and an equal number are created. This discovery has radically altered the way economists think about how labor markets work. Without this necessary phenomenon of "creative destruction," our economies would experience much lower growth. Unemployment is a natural consequence of a vigorous economy—and is in fact indispensable to it.

In this pithy and provocative book, 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 lay at the heart of industrial society no longer exists. The different levels of large industrial enterprises have been systematically disassembled: tasks considered nonessential are assigned to subcontractors; engineers are grouped together in research sites, apart from the workers.

The multinational firm and its main vehicle, foreign direct investment, are key forces in economic globalization. Their importance to the world economy can be seen in the fact that since 1990 foreign direct investment has grown more rapidly than the world GDP and world trade. Despite this, the causes and consequences of multinational firm activity are little understood and until recently relatively unexamined in the theoretical literature.

Contract Theory by Patrick Bolton and Mathias Dewatripont, a comprehensive textbook on contract theory suitable for use at the graduate and advanced undergraduate levels, covers the areas of agency theory, information economics, and organization theory and presents many applications in all areas of economics, especially labor economics, industrial organization, and corporate finance.

The core mechanism that drives economic growth in modern market economies is massive microeconomic restructuring and factor reallocation--the Schumpeterian "creative destruction" by which new technologies replace the old. At the microeconomic level, restructuring is characterized by countless decisions to create and destroy production arrangements. The efficiency of these decisions depends in large part on the existence of sound institutions that provide a proper transactional environment.

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