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RSF Bulletin

New Book: Where Bad Jobs Are Better: Retail Jobs Across Countries and Companies

Retail firms are now the largest employer in the United States. For the most part, retail jobs are “bad jobs” characterized by low wages, unpredictable work schedules, and few opportunities for advancement. However, labor experts Françoise Carré and Chris Tilly show that these conditions are not inevitable. In a new RSF book, Where Bad Jobs Are Better, they investigate retail jobs of different types in seven countries and analyze the factors that are associated with more desirable retail jobs. Where Bad Jobs Are Better charts a path to improving job quality for all low-wage jobs.

In surveying retail work across the U.S., Carré and Tilly show that most retail workers receive low pay and nearly half work part-time, which contributes to high turnover and low productivity. Yet, Carré and Tilly find large differences in these jobs in other countries. In France, supermarket cashiers perform essentially the same work as cashiers in the U.S. but receive higher pay, are mostly full-time, and experience lower turnover and higher productivity. In Germany, retailers are required by law to provide their employees notice of work schedules six months in advance. The authors conclude that disparities in job quality are largely the result of differing social norms and national institutions. For instance, weak labor regulations and the decline of unions in the U.S. have enabled retailers to cut labor costs aggressively, increasing the prevalence of bad jobs. In contrast, higher minimum wages, greater government regulation of work schedules, and stronger collective bargaining through unions and works councils have improved the quality of European retail jobs. As the New York Times' Eduardo Porter wrote in a recent column citing the book, "There is nothing inevitable about dead-end jobs."

Read more about the book or purchase a copy.

Fall 2017 Awards Approved in RSF Special Initiatives and Social Inequality Program

Four research projects in the RSF’s Social Inequality program and five in its special initiatives on Immigration and Immigrant Integration, Non-Standard Employment, Integrating Biology and Social Science Knowledge, and Computational Social Science were recently approved at the foundation’s November 2017 meeting of the board of trustees.

View the full list of approved awards

Summer Institutes in Migration and Journalism

From the evening of Sunday, June 17 to the morning of Thursday, June 28, 2018, RSF will sponsor the first Summer Institute in Migration Research Methods at the University of California, Berkeley. The Summer Institute will train a new generation of U.S. migration researchers to leverage existing datasets, learn best-practices for rigorous, new data-collection projects, and apply cutting-edge methodologies for the study of mobile populations. The Institute welcomes applicants from all of the social sciences. The co-organizers and principal faculty of the Institute are Professors Irene Bloemraad (University of California, Berkeley) and Jennifer Van Hook (Pennsylvania State University). Applications are due February 23, 2018. Read more and apply.

From the morning of Wednesday, July 11 to the afternoon of Friday, July 13, 2018, RSF will sponsor its second Social Science Summer Institute for Journalists at the Foundation. The co-organizers and principal faculty of the Institute are Professor Nicholas Lemann and Tali Woodward (Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism). Applications are due March 30, 2018. Read more and apply.

Requests for RSF Articles

RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is accepting abstracts for papers for two upcoming issues. The first issue, edited by David R. Howell (New School) and Arne L. Kalleberg (University of North Carolina) will focus on the rise of low-wage jobs and non-standard work arrangements in the U.S. Submissions for this issue are due December 20, 2017. View the full request for articles.

RSF is also accepting abstracts for papers for an upcoming issue analyzing recent labor market trends and what they portend for future economic growth, employment, and income inequality in the U.S. The issue will be edited by Erica L. Groshen (Cornell University) and Harry J. Holzer (Georgetown University). Submissions for this issue are due January 19, 2018. View the full request for articles.

RSF Research Spotlight: How Government Redistribution Affects Inequality

In 2016, economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman (University of California, Berkeley) received an RSF research award to create distributional national accounts combining tax, survey, and national accounts data for the U.S. since 1913.

In a working paper coauthored with Thomas Piketty (Paris School of Economics), they use these distributional accounts to compute growth rates for each quantile of the income distribution. They find that since 1980, average pre-tax national income has stagnated for the bottom 50%, but has boomed at the top: in 1980, the top 1% of adults earned on average 27 times more than the bottom 50% of adults; today they earn 81 times more.

Read more about Saez and Zucman’s research.

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