Jake Rosenfeld

Professor of Sociology
PhD, Princeton University
research interests:
  • Economic Inequality
  • Work
  • Workplace
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    contact info:

    office hours:

    • Wednesdays 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.
    • By appointment only

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • MSC 1112-228-04
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Jake Rosenfeld's research and teaching focus on the political and economic determinants of inequality in the United States and other advanced democracies. He is primarily interested in the determinants of wages and salaries, and how these vary across time and place. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University. 

    Rosenfeld's 2014 book What Unions No Longer Do (Harvard University Press) shows in detail the consequences of labor’s decline: curtailed advocacy for better working conditions, weakened support for immigrants’ economic assimilation, and ineffectiveness in addressing wage stagnation among African-Americans. The book has received wide attention in the national press and in such outlets as The New Yorker and Harvard Business Review. 

     

    His 2021 book, You're Paid What You’re Worth and Other Myths of the Modern Economy (Harvard University Press), seeks to answer the basic question: who gets what and why? He argues that four dynamics are paramount: power, inertia, mimicry, and demands for equity. Power struggles legitimize pay for particular jobs, and organizational inertia makes that pay seem natural. Mimicry encourages employers to do what peers are doing. And workers are on the lookout for practices that seem unfair. Rosenfeld shows us how these dynamics play out in real-world settings, drawing on cutting-edge social science, original survey data, and a journalistic eye for compelling stories and revealing details.  The book has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Harvard Business Review.

               

                For more details, please see: www.jakerosenfeld.net.

     

    What Unions No Longer Do

    What Unions No Longer Do

    From workers’ wages to presidential elections, labor unions once exerted tremendous clout in American life. In the immediate post-World War II era, one in three workers belonged to a union. The fraction now is close to one in ten, and just one in twenty in the private sector—the lowest in a century. The only thing big about Big Labor today is the scope of its problems. While many studies have attempted to explain the causes of this decline, What Unions No Longer Do lays bare the broad repercussions of labor’s collapse for the American economy and polity.

    Organized labor was not just a minor player during the “golden age” of welfare capitalism in the middle decades of the twentieth century, Jake Rosenfeld asserts. Rather, for generations it was the core institution fighting for economic and political equality in the United States. Unions leveraged their bargaining power to deliver tangible benefits to workers while shaping cultural understandings of fairness in the workplace. The labor movement helped sustain an unprecedented period of prosperity among America’s expanding, increasingly multiethnic middle class.

    What Unions No Longer Do shows in detail the consequences of labor’s decline: curtailed advocacy for better working conditions, weakened support for immigrants’ economic assimilation, and ineffectiveness in addressing wage stagnation among African-Americans. In short, unions are no longer instrumental in combating inequality in our economy and our politics, and the result is a sharp decline in the prospects of American workers and their families.