Change Point


Explanations for the absence of a universal healthcare program in the United States tend to focus on the obstructive role of the American Medical Association, which, via an extensive lobbying campaign, prevented the passage of a national health insurance plan in 1945. Much less attention has been paid to the diverging and often contradictory interests of organized labor during this period.

In her 2006 book, JILL QUADAGNO considers the relationship between industrial policy and healthcare reform, analyzing how the labor movement came to unify behind private insurance providers by the late 1940s.

From the text:

“Although Taft-Hartley outlawed independent, union-run welfare funds through a provision that employers had to share equally in the administration of any pension or health plan, it had left unresolved the issue of whether employers had to bargain over fringe benefits. In 1948 the National Labor Relations Board ruled that fringe benefits were subject to collective bargaining, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court. Then in 1949 the Wage Stabilization Board, whose job was to keep inflation from wage increases under control, determined that fringe benefits were not inflationary. With many options for increasing membership closed off, union leaders made bargaining for fringe benefits a top priority. Fringe benefits became organized labor’s key strategy for recruiting and retaining members. Over half of strikes in 1949 and 70 percent in 1950 were over this issue.

Between 1946 and 1957 the number of workers covered by negotiated health insurance plans rose from 1 million to 12 million, plus an additional 20 million dependents. Close to 95 percent of industrial workers represented by the CIO were covered, compared to only 20 percent of skilled craft workers affiliated with the AFL. As for national health insurance, most industrial unionists now ‘gave [it] only lip service.’ Private health insurance ‘had taken the heat off.’ The expansion of private health benefits divided the working class into those who had health insurance and those who did not, and it transformed the way organized labor mobilized politically. Instead of requiring leaders who could inspire the troops to stand by the barricades, the labor movement needed leaders who could master complex financial instruments. The next battle would be won by policy experts with calculators, not charismatic militants who could issue a call to arms.”

Link to the book.

  • “Labor unions, senior citizens, socialists, and other groups have certainly participated in campaigns to redesign the health care system, but the campaigns themselves have most often been initiated and run by elite organizations and individuals with little connection to a popular base of support.” Beatrix Hoffman on “Health Care Reform and Social Movements in the United States.” Link.
  • Maryaline Catillon, David M. Cutler, and Thomas E. Getzen analyze US healthcare provision since 1800. Link.
  • “By the early 20th century, Britain had a strong civil service and competing, programmatically oriented political parties. However, the contemporary United States lacked an established civil bureaucracy and was embroiled in the efforts of Progressive reformers to create regulatory agencies and policies free of the ‘political corruption’ of 19th century patronage democracy.” Ann Shola Orloff and Theda Skocpol compare healthcare provision in the US and UK. Link. And a 2011 article by Howard Glennerster and Robert C. Lieberman argues that “there are more parallels and points of tangency between the two systems than are readily apparent.” Link.


Family leave policy and labor market participation

PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Oregon LUCIANA ETCHEVERRY studies development and labor economics. In a 2020 paper, Etcheverry examines the labor market outcomes of a family policy in Uruguay that allows new parents to receive full-time pay for half-time work.

From the paper:

“I study the introduction of a novel form of family policy implemented in Uruguay in 2014: A subsidy that allows parents employed in the formal-private sector to work half-time while receiving full-time pay, from the time maternity leave ends, and until the child is 6 months old. Even though both mother and father can alternate access to the parental care subsidy, in practice, approximately 98 percent of beneficiaries at any given month are women, highlighting an extreme gender gap in utilization. I leverage the fact that public sector workers and informal workers do not have access to the new subsidy and thus can serve as a control group within the sample of employed mothers of infants. I find that mothers are more likely to be employed following the implementation of the parental care subsidy in the short and medium-term. This effect is driven by an increase in the likelihood of being employed in the formal-private sector, specially by disadvantaged mothers (those who are less educated). Mothers of young children employed in the formal-private sector have a significant increase in income and job experience compared to mother of young children employed in other sectors. However, the policy seems to not affect hours worked. Overall, this study provides novel evidence that extensions of flexibilities after birth in the form of fully paid half-time employment causes higher labor force attachment for female workers in the short and medium-term, specially for disadvantaged mothers.”

Link to the paper, link to Etcheverry’s website.

Each week we highlight great work from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Have you read any excellent research recently that you’d like to see shared here? Send it our way:

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  • “Rather than proposing individual rights of payment or exit, data governance should be envisioned as a project of collective democratic obligation that seeks to secure those of representation instead.” New on the blog: Salomé Viljoen examines two dominant proposals for data governance. Link.
  • Join us on Friday, October 23 at 6 pm ET for our monthly research session, featuring Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro, and Adam Pham on democratic obligations and technological threats to legitimacy. RSVP to
  • In cased you missed Phenomenal World’s event on automation, waged life, and post-scarcity, co-sponsored by n+1 and Dissent Magazine, watch it here. Aaron Benanav discussed his new book, Automation and the Future of Work, with Tim Barker in a conversation moderated by Katrina Forrester.
  • “This study comprehensively defines monetary architecture and presents a macrofinancial model of the Eurozone architecture.” Steffen Murau on monetary architecture and the global offshore US-dollar system. Link.
  • A new report from the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection found that 45% of NYC households can’t pay for a $400 emergency expense with cash and 11% are unbanked. Link.
  • “This research examines how the exogenous shock of the U.S. prohibition of the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol in 1920 restructured power and inequality in Chicago organized crime.” By Chris M. Smith. Link.
  • In a new NBER working paper, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman revise estimates on US income and wealth inequality, responding to claims that inequality has not grown as quickly as previously suggested. Link. In another paper, Saez and Zucman analyze inequality through distributional macroeconomic accounts. Link.
  • Paddy Ireland documents the history of the shareholder-oriented joint stock corporation. Link.
  • “I combine a full century of census data with archival data to show that cities the Home Owners Loan Corporation appraised became more segregated than those it ignored.” Jacob W. Faber on the consequences of the New Deal. Link.
  • Narendra Subramanian compares political mobilizations in the 20th century by Dalits in India and African Americans in the United States. Link.
  • Elena Prager and Matt Schmitt on the effects of hospital mergers on worker wage growth. Link.
  • “We provide evidence that individuals substitute between political contributions and charitable contributions.” By Maria Petrova, Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Andrei, Simonov, and Pinar Yildrim. Link.
  • A recent article by Ivan Boldyrev examines a Soviet research group that made a turn to the study of rational choice theory, mechanism design, formal political theory and other then-burgeoning “Western” economic theories. Link.
  • “Since cotton was a key export of the Near East, and of crucial significance in the world economy, analyzing its trade, as well as the evolution of its prices in different markets, helps us understand the nature of the relationship between the Near East and the global market. In the nineteenth century, cotton played a pivotal role in the world economy because it was a key raw material during the Industrial Revolution. Cotton became ‘the core input of the world’s most important manufacturing industry, in terms of amount of labor employed, value of output, and profitability.’ I consider two regions of the Near East, Western Anatolia, and Egypt, the former located at the core of the Ottoman Empire, the latter at its periphery. This study aims to assess whether the extent of cotton market integration in the Near East improved or worsened over time and also to connect changes in the nature of spatial market integration between these markets to major economic and political developments.” By Laura Panza. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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