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Future of Work

New Research Collaborations with the W.K. Kellogg and MacArthur Foundations

March 12, 2015

The Russell Sage Foundation has launched several research collaborations with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Over the last year, seven projects have been co-funded with the Kellogg Foundation and nine projects have been co-funded with the MacArthur Foundation.

RSF president Sheldon Danziger remarked, “I am extremely pleased that the Russell Sage Foundation has been able to collaborate with the Kellogg Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.” He added, “We receive many high-quality social science research proposals and these partnerships allow us to fund a greater number of projects than we could support with our own funds.”

Winter 2015 Presidential Authority Awards

March 9, 2015

The Russell Sage Foundation has recently approved the following Presidential Authority awards in several programs, including Future of Work, Social Inequality, Cultural Contact, and Immigration programs.

Awards approved in the Future of Work program:

Living at the Minimum: Low-Wage Workers with Children During Seattle's Minimum Wage Increase
Heather D. Hill and Jennifer Romich (University of Washington)
Jointly funded with the MacArthur Foundation

Human development and social policy experts Heather Hill and Jennifer Romich will carry out an in-depth, qualitative study of Seattle workers with children before and after the implementation of the city’s minimum wage increase to $15 per hour starting in April 2015.

New Awards Approved in Future of Work, Social Inequality, and Cultural Contact Programs

March 2, 2015

Seven new research projects were funded at the Foundation’s February 2015 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The Foundation’s Future of Work program examines the causes and consequences of the declining quality of jobs for less- and moderately-educated workers in the U.S. economy and the role of changes in employer practices, the nature of the labor market and public policies on the employment, earnings, and the quality of jobs of American workers. The following project was recently funded under the program:

Minimum Wage Policies and Low-Wage Work: An Assessment of New Methods and Measures
Arindrajit Dube (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Jointly funded with the MacArthur Foundation

Economist Arindrajit Dube, who has been at the forefront of new minimum wage research, will assess the contradictory findings in the recent literature on whether increasing the minimum wage raises labor costs and leads to fewer jobs at the bottom of the labor market.

Fall 2014 Presidential Authority Awards in Social Inequality and the Future of Work

December 5, 2014

The Russell Sage Foundation has recently approved the following Presidential Authority awards in two key programs, Social Inequality and the Future of Work. Click the titles below to read more about each award.

New Awards Approved in Core RSF Programs

November 19, 2014

Thirteen new research projects in the Russell Sage Foundation’s Behavioral Economics, Social Inequality, Immigration, and the Future of Work programs were recently funded at the Foundation’s November 2014 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The Foundation’s Behavioral Economics program supports research that incorporates the insights of psychology and other social sciences into the study of economic behavior. The following projects were recently funded under the program:

New Awards Approved in Social Inequality and Future of Work Programs

July 15, 2014

Several new research projects in the Russell Sage Foundation’s Social Inequality and the Future of Work programs were funded at the Foundation’s June meeting of the Board of Trustees.

The Foundation’s Social Inequality program examines the social and political consequences of rising economic inequality. Recently, the program has turned to in-depth examinations of public education and intergenerational social mobility, funding projects that examine access to early education, growing wealth disparities in the U.S., and the effects of household wealth on child development, among others. The following projects were funded under the Social Inequality program:

Job Quality in the United States

July 1, 2013

Writing in the journal Social Forces earlier this year, Vicki Smith of University of California, Davis, praised two of our recent books on job polarization trends -- Good Jobs, Bad Jobs (Arne Kalleberg) and Good Jobs America (Paul Osterman and Beth Shulman) -- as important additions to the growing literature on "employment precariousness":

Good Jobs, Bad Jobs methodically traces the causes and consequences of the polarization of jobs into good and bad, and the rise of precariousness across occupations and professions. Seeing the current era of uncertainty as a moment in an ongoing “double movement” (a concept coined by Polanyi) between flexibility (characterized by the dominance of unregulated markets and the subsequent disruption of social life) and security (characterized by the dominance of government interventions that buffer individuals and families from market dynamics) over the course of industrial capitalism, Kalleberg carefully addresses each facet of polarization and precariousness, analyzing data from a wide variety of sources to answer questions that have been debated vigorously by sociologists and economists. His goal is to weave together many different strands of precariousness and polarization (indeed, they are mutually constitutive, in that developments in one domain often exert pressure on another) that have created a deeply worrisome set of employment relationships.


Osterman and Shulman reveal the flaws in popular myths about the low-wage labor market and about social mobility in the United States. today. Two are striking: adults’ participation in low-wage markets is transient (thus, we shouldn't fuss too much about it as an impediment to long-run social mobility), and they simply need to develop their human capital to ascend from them. Osterman and Shulman argue that the vast majority of people who hold low-wage jobs are stuck there. The jobs are dead-end and offer no opportunity for learning new skills or for vertical mobility. Furthermore, Osterman and Shulman doubt that increasing education or skill levels is sufficient to enable many workers to access “good” jobs. Their goal is straightforward: below-standard jobs must be improved, by paying better wages (not wages that consign people to membership in the working poor), building job ladders that link low-wage positions to better compensated positions at higher levels in and between organizations, and instituting training programs for low-level employees.

Workplace Violation Rates in the Low-Wage Sector

February 22, 2013

After President Obama's call for a higher federal minimum wage, much of the public debate over the proposal, including on this blog, has focused on the impact of the minimum wage on the labor market and on business profits. But a new study funded by the Foundation suggests that the potential disemployment effects of a minimum wage hike -- if any -- should be only one part of a wider discussion of working conditions in the low-wage sector. Using a novel measurement technique, the study investigates how many employers in low-wage industries pay the existing minimum wage -- and its results are quite sobering.

In their article in the latest Social Forces, Annette Bernhardt, Michael Spiller and Diana Polson draw from a landmark representative survey of frontline workers in low-wage industries to reveal disturbingly high rates of workplace violations, including minimum wage, overtime and other employment laws. The study is especially notable because measuring labor law violations is notoriously difficult: low-wage workers are hard to reach (and to accurately sample), and employers are unlikely to admit to breaking labor laws. For their data, the authors rely on the 2008 Unregulated Work Survey, which used Respondent-Driven Sampling to reach more than 4,300 workers in low-wage industries in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. The authors summarize their conclusions:

We found high violation rates of a wide range of employment and labor laws, with fully 67.5 percent of our sample having experienced at least one form of wage theft in the previous work week. We also document high rates of employer retaliation when workers made a complaint or tried to organize a union, and a workers' compensation system that is essentially nonfunctional in this part of the labor market. These prevalence rates, combined with the substantial amount of stolen wages (15% of wages due, on average), suggests that workplace violations are becoming standard practice in the low-wage labor market.

Reviewing the Research on the Minimum Wage

February 19, 2013

Last week, we shared some of our research on the minimum wage's impact on labor markets. Anrindrajit Dube, one of our grantees (and co-author of this important study on San Francisco's living wage ordinance), appeared recently on MSNBC's Up With Chris Hayes show to give a broad overview of the conventional economic wisdom on the minimum wage, and why recent empirical evidence (including his own work) has complicated the argument. Watch the clip below (Dube starts to speak around the 4:00 minute mark):

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The Impact of Raising the Minimum Wage

February 13, 2013

In his State of the Union address, President Obama voiced support for raising the federal minimum wage, a deeply controversial move that has often divided economists and policymakers. Conventional economic theory suggests that raising the minimum wage will lead firms to cut production costs and jobs. Over the past decade or so, the Russell Sage Foundation has funded several studies that assessed the actual impact of minimum wage increases in cities and states across the country. Links are included below:

  • Schmitt, John and David Rosnick. 2011. "The Wage and Employment Impact of Minimum‐Wage Laws in Three Cities," Center for Economic Policy and Research.
  • This report analyzes the wage and employment effects of the first three city-specific minimum wages in the United States –San Francisco (2004), Santa Fe (2004), and Washington, DC (1993). The authors use data from a virtual census of employment in each of the three cities, surrounding suburbs, and nearby metropolitan areas, to estimate the impact of minimum-wage laws on wages and employment in fast food restaurants, food services, retail trade, and other low-wage and small establishments.

  • Powers, Elizabeth T. 2009. "The Impact of Minimum-Wage Increases: Evidence from Fast-Food Establishments in Illinois and Indiana," Journal of Labor Research Vol. 30 (4), pp. 365-394. (Gated)
  • Fast-food establishments in Illinois and Indiana were surveyed during a period of state-mandated minimum-wage increases in Illinois. While entry-level wages of Illinois establishments rose substantially in response to the mandated increases, there is little evidence that Illinois establishments ameliorated wage increases by delaying scheduled raises or reducing fringe benefit offerings. There is little evidence of ‘labor-labor’ substitution in favor of women, better educated, or teenaged workers, or increased worker tenure at the new wage, but weak evidence of increased food prices. In contrast, there are large declines in part-time positions and workers’ hours in Illinois relative to Indiana. Aggregate figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics support relative declines in total fast-food employment in ‘downstate’ Illinois counties, as hypothesized. However, establishments’ responses do not appear proportionate to the strength of the minimum wage change.

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