Working Nation, A

Working Nation, A: Workers, Work, and Government in the New Economy

David T. Ellwood
Rebecca M. Blank
Joseph Blasi
Douglas Kruse
William A. Niskanen
Karen Lynn-Dyson
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Working Nation, A
    Book Description:

    The nature of work in the United States is changing dramatically, as new technologies, a global economy, and more demanding investors combine to create a far more competitive marketplace. Corporate efforts to respond to these new challenges have yielded mixed results. Headlines about instant millionaires and innovative e-businesses mingle with coverage of increasing job insecurity and record wage gaps between upper management and hourly workers.A Working Nationtracks the profound implications the changing workplace has had for all workers and shows who the real economic winners and losers have been in the past twenty-five years.

    A Working Nationsorts fact from fiction about the new relationship between workers and firms, and addresses several critical issues: Who are the real winners and losers in this new economy? Has the relationship between workers and firms really been transformed? How have employees become more integrated into or disconnected from corporate strategies and performance? Should government step into this new economic reality and how should it intervene?

    Among the topics investigated, David T. Ellwood explores and explains the apparent paradox between the steady rise in per capita national income and the stagnant wages of middle- and working-class workers. Douglas Kruse and Joseph Blasi study relative changes in long-term vs. temporary work, and evaluate the introduction of profit-sharing schemes and high performance workplace programs. William A. Niskanen and Rebecca M. Blank, both former members of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, offer their perspectives on what direction government might take to make this a working nation for everyone. Though Niskanen and Blank take alternative approaches, they both conclude that the primary policy emphasis ought to be on the problems of the least skilled more than on inequality per se, and that a focus on childhood education and tax supports for low-income working families should be of primary concern.

    A Working Nationpaints a compelling and surprisingly consistent picture of today's workplace. While the booming economy has created millions of new jobs, it has also lead to an alarmingly unbalanced system of rewards that puts less-skilled, and many middle-class, workers at risk. This book is essential reading for those seeking the most efficient answers to the challenges and opportunities of the evolving economy.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-180-3
    Subjects: Business, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    David T. Ellwood

    Work in the U.S. economy is changing in profound ways, creating new opportunities and new inequalities. There are winners and losers, new forms of competition, new pressures, and new calls for action. Yet in the increasingly fractious and partisan atmosphere that has engulfed the nation in recent years, the hope of finding some common understanding about what is happening, much less reaching any sort of consensus on actions (or inaction) that the nation might consider, seems increasingly forlorn. Ignoring the new economic realities could lead to a weaker economy in the future, an increasingly divided society, more uneven opportunities for...

  5. Chapter 1 Winners and Losers in America: Taking the Measure of the New Economic Realities
    (pp. 1-41)
    David T. Ellwood

    In the cacophony of voices characterizing the U.S. economy, it is easy to get confused. To some, “We are watching the beginnings of a global boom on a scale never experienced before … riding the early waves of a twenty-five-year run of a greatly expanding economy that will do much to solve seemingly intractable problems like poverty” (Schwartz and Leyden 1977, 113). Yet other commentators claim, “The typical American family is worse off in the mid-1990s than it was at the end of the 1970s” (Mishel, Bernstein, and Schmitt 1997, 4). Wage dispersion is said to be growing dramatically and...

  6. Chapter 2 The New Employee-Employer Relationship
    (pp. 42-91)
    Douglas Kruse and Joseph Blasi

    Have the connections between employers and employees in the United States weakened in recent years? Substantial popular attention has been paid to downsizing, the growth of the temporary workforce, and other trends that seem to signal a general decline in job security and company loyalty among American workers. Are we in fact seeing a basic change in the employee-employer relationship in the United States in which workers are being treated more as disposable factors of production who can be easily replaced by technology or overseas production? What workplace policies or practices hold promise for creating win-win situations—enhancing business performance...

  7. Chapter 3 Creating Good Jobs and Good Wages
    (pp. 92-104)
    William A. Niskanen

    All in all, this seems like a strange time to be concerned about good jobs and good wages in the American economy. Total civilian employment has increased about 175,000 a month for more than seven years, and the employment rate is at a record high. As of October 1999 the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, the lowest since the late 1960s, and the median period of unemployment was only 6.4 weeks. The number of major strikes has declined to an annual rate about one-tenth that of the 1960s. Although the growth of productivity and average real compensation was sluggish for...

  8. Chapter 4 Enhancing the Opportunities, Skills, and Security of American Workers
    (pp. 105-123)
    Rebecca M. Blank

    Wages were distributed much less equally among U.S. workers in 1998 than they were in the late 1970s. In this chapter I discuss the implications of that change for workers and for the social polity of the United States more generally. I also critically review the various policy options that are available for responding to rising inequality in the labor market.

    Chapter 1 of this volume reviews the facts about rising wage inequality, but it may be useful to revisit some of the key trends that underlie much of the policy discussion. Wage inequality began to rise around 1979. In...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 124-133)
  10. References
    (pp. 134-142)
  11. Index
    (pp. 143-146)