Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States, 1970s-2000s

Russell Sage Foundation
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The economic boom of the 1990s veiled a grim reality: in addition to the growing gap between rich and poor, the gap between good and bad quality jobs was also expanding. The postwar prosperity of the mid-twentieth century had enabled millions of American workers to join the middle class, but as author Arne L. Kalleberg shows, by the 1970s this upward movement had slowed, in part due to the steady disappearance of secure, well-paying industrial jobs. Ever since, precarious employment has been on the rise—paying low wages, offering few benefits, and with virtually no long-term security. Today, the polarization between workers with higher skill levels and those with low skills and low wages is more entrenched than ever. Good Jobs, Bad Jobs traces this trend to large-scale transformations in the American labor market and the changing demographics of low-wage workers. Kalleberg draws on nearly four decades of survey data, as well as his own research, to evaluate trends in U.S. job quality and suggest ways to improve American labor market practices and social policies. Good Jobs, Bad Jobs provides an insightful analysis of how and why precarious employment is gaining ground in the labor market and the role these developments have played in the decline of the middle class. Kalleberg shows that by the 1970s, government deregulation, global competition, and the rise of the service sector gained traction, while institutional protections for workers—such as unions and minimum-wage legislation—weakened. Together, these forces marked the end of postwar security for American workers. The composition of the labor force also changed significantly; the number of dual-earner families increased, as did the share of the workforce comprised of women, non-white, and immigrant workers. Of these groups, blacks, Latinos, and immigrants remain concentrated in the most precarious and low-quality jobs, with educational attainment being the leading indicator of who will earn the highest wages and experience the most job security and highest levels of autonomy and control over their jobs and schedules. Kalleberg demonstrates, however, that building a better safety net—increasing government responsibility for worker health care and retirement, as well as strengthening unions—can go a long way toward redressing the effects of today’s volatile labor market. There is every reason to expect that the growth of precarious jobs—which already make up a significant share of the American job market—will continue. Good Jobs, Bad Jobs deftly shows that the decline in U.S. job quality is not the result of fluctuations in the business cycle, but rather the result of economic restructuring and the disappearance of institutional protections for workers. Only government, employers and labor working together on long-term strategies—including an expanded safety net, strengthened legal protections, and better training opportunities—can help reverse this trend. A Volume in the American Sociological Association’s Rose Series in Sociology.
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About the author

ARNE L. KALLEBERG is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Russell Sage Foundation
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Published on
Jun 1, 2011
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Pages
312
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ISBN
9781610447478
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / General
Political Science / Labor & Industrial Relations
Social Science / Sociology / General
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This content is DRM protected.
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Public policy is rightly concerned with fostering a vibrant labor market in which individuals can earn their own success, realize their potential, and enjoy the dignity that hard work provides. But public policy faces serious challenges in today’s labor market: low workforce participation and high unemployment among many Americans, technological innovation, globalization, persistent poverty, education and training, and public policy’s unintended consequences are just a few. Which characteristics of today’s labor market demand attention? Which are simply realities to be accepted? And how should policy respond? Asking the right questions is a good place to start, and this volume asks some of the most important: Should we be concerned about economic mobility and inequality? What is the relationship between productivity and compensation, immigrants and native workers, public policy and labor supply, and corporate taxes and employment? How can we make work pay, and build workers’ skills? What can be done for workers who are difficult to employ? A competitive market in ideas is the best mechanism to understand the world, and to find the best solutions to problems. This volume makes manifest that proposition, answering each of the questions outlined above—twice, with two papers authored by economists. Each paper offers a different point of view and a different emphasis. This volume will inform policy for many years to come, helping to move policy in a direction that will better allow all of us to contribute, and to lead lives of fulfillment through work.
America confronts a jobs crisis that has two faces. The first is obvious when we read the newspapers or talk with our friends and neighbors: there are simply not enough jobs to go around. The second jobs crisis is more subtle but no less serious: far too many jobs fall below the standard that most Americans would consider decent work. A quarter of working adults are trapped in jobs that do not provide living wages, health insurance, or much hope of upward mobility. The problem spans all races and ethnic groups and includes both native-born Americans and immigrants. But Good Jobs America provides examples from industries ranging from food services and retail to manufacturing and hospitals to demonstrate that bad jobs can be made into good ones. Paul Osterman and Beth Shulman make a rigorous argument that by enacting policies to help employers improve job quality we can create better jobs, and futures, for all workers. Good Jobs America dispels several myths about low-wage work and job quality. The book demonstrates that mobility out of the low-wage market is a chimera—far too many adults remain trapped in poor-quality jobs. Osterman and Shulman show that while education and training are important, policies aimed at improving earnings equality are essential to lifting workers out of poverty. The book also demolishes the myth that such policies would slow economic growth. The experiences of countries such as France, Germany, and the Netherlands, show that it is possible to mandate higher job standards while remaining competitive in international markets. Good Jobs America shows that both government and the firms that hire low-wage workers have important roles to play in improving the quality of low-wage jobs. Enforcement agencies might bolster the effectiveness of existing regulations by exerting pressure on parent companies, enabling effects to trickle down to the subsidiaries and sub-contractors where low-wage jobs are located. States like New York have already demonstrated that involving community and advocacy groups—such as immigrant rights organizations, social services agencies, and unions—in the enforcement process helps decrease workplace violations. And since better jobs reduce turnover and improve performance, career ladder programs within firms help create positions employees can aspire to. But in order for ladder programs to work, firms must also provide higher rungs—the career advancement opportunities workers need to get ahead. Low-wage employment occupies a significant share of the American labor market, but most of these jobs offer little and lead nowhere. Good Jobs America reappraises what we know about job quality and low-wage employment and makes a powerful argument for our obligation to help the most vulnerable workers. A core principle of U.S. society is that good jobs be made accessible to all. This book proposes that such a goal is possible if we are committed to realizing it.
Though there are still just twenty-four hours in a day, society's idea of who should be doing what and when has shifted. Time, the ultimate scarce resource, has become an increasingly contested battle zone in American life, with work, family, and personal obligations pulling individuals in conflicting directions. In Fighting for Time, editors Cynthia Fuchs Epstein and Arne Kalleberg bring together a team of distinguished sociologists and management analysts to examine the social construction of time and its importance in American culture. Fighting for Time opens with an exploration of changes in time spent at work—both when people are on the job and the number of hours they spend there—and the consequences of those changes for individuals and families. Contributors Jerry Jacobs and Kathleen Gerson find that the relative constancy of the average workweek in America over the last thirty years hides the fact that blue-collar workers are putting in fewer hours while more educated white-collar workers are putting in more. Rudy Fenwick and Mark Tausig look at the effect of nonstandard schedules on workers' health and family life. They find that working unconventional hours can increase family stress, but that control over one's work schedule improves family, social, and health outcomes for workers. The book then turns to an examination of how time influences the organization and control of work. The British insurance company studied by David Collinson and Margaret Collinson is an example of a culture where employees are judged on the number of hours they work rather than on their productivity. There, managers are under intense pressure not to take legally guaranteed parental leave, and clocks are banned from the office walls so that employees will work without regard to the time. In the book's final section, the contributors examine how time can have different meanings for men and women. Cynthia Fuchs Epstein points out that professional women and stay-at-home fathers face social disapproval for spending too much time on activities that do not conform to socially prescribed gender roles—men are mocked by coworkers for taking paternity leave, while working mothers are chastised for leaving their children to the care of others. Fighting for Time challenges assumptions about the relationship between time and work, revealing that time is a fluid concept that derives its importance from cultural attitudes, social psychological processes, and the exercise of power. Its insight will be of interest to sociologists, economists, social psychologists, business leaders, and anyone interested in the work-life balance.
From 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a captivating account of how "a skinny Asian kid from upstate" became a successful entrepreneur, only to find a new mission: calling attention to the urgent steps America must take, including Universal Basic Income, to stabilize our economy amid rapid technological change and automation.

The shift toward automation is about to create a tsunami of unemployment. Not in the distant future--now. One recent estimate predicts 45 million American workers will lose their jobs within the next twelve years--jobs that won't be replaced. In a future marked by restlessness and chronic unemployment, what will happen to American society?

In The War on Normal People, Andrew Yang paints a dire portrait of the American economy. Rapidly advancing technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation software are making millions of Americans' livelihoods irrelevant. The consequences of these trends are already being felt across our communities in the form of political unrest, drug use, and other social ills. The future looks dire-but is it unavoidable?

In The War on Normal People, Yang imagines a different future--one in which having a job is distinct from the capacity to prosper and seek fulfillment. At this vision's core is Universal Basic Income, the concept of providing all citizens with a guaranteed income-and one that is rapidly gaining popularity among forward-thinking politicians and economists. Yang proposes that UBI is an essential step toward a new, more durable kind of economy, one he calls "human capitalism."
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