A Good Jobs Nation

Awarded Scholars:
Beth Shulman, DEMOS
Paul Osterman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Project Date:
Jun 2009
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Future of Work

Job creation in the midst of a growing economic crisis was a hotly debated topic in the stimulus package as it wended its way through the U.S. Congress. Even if the program succeeds in creating 3.5 million jobs, what kind of jobs will they be? Beth Shulman (DEMOS) and Paul Osterman (MIT) argue that the promise of good jobs that can sustain an American family has been broken. Workers in America face multiple adversities in the labor market that their counterparts in other industrialized countries do not.


With an award from the Foundation, Shulman and Osterman wrote a book, Good Jobs America, to make the case that the reality of so many hard-working adults in jobs that pay low wages and provide few benefits is unacceptable. The book describes the pervasiveness of the problem and explore its sources, but the book also provides an agenda for action. 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.


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