Gesture Dance


Wage boards, climate targets, and employment security

Just as universal basic income has its corollaries in more moderate policies like Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) reform, a federal jobs guarantee (estimated by some measures to total nearly $543 billion in the first year) has organizational corollaries in collective bargaining institutions. Among them, wage boards have received renewed attention both by researchers and politicians in the United States. Distinct from trade unions, wage boards serve to centralize bargaining at the firm level through proportionate representation by employers, employees, and policymakers. Within the German context, they have been found to increase productivity and reduce social inequality. Unlike other policies aimed at mitigating income and wealth disparities, wage boards are virtually costless to implement.

Existing literature on codetermination has focused on its economic impacts. In a recent article, ROBERT SCHOLZ and SIGURT VITOLS broaden the inquiry to the sphere of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Using an original measure for the strength of codetermination institutions, they test whether wage boards influence the likelihood of firms to adopt socially conscious practices:

“Codetermination strength is strongly and positively related to all three of the substantive types of CSR we examine, the adoption of targets for emissions reduction, the publication of a CSR report and commitment to employment security. This suggests that worker representatives are selective with regard to the policies they support: they appear less likely to support symbolic than substantive forms of CSR.

We also shed light on the debate in comparative CSR literature regarding the adoption of CSR policies in coordinated market economies like Germany. All five policies examined are of the ‘explicit’ variety, adopted voluntarily by companies. They are often supposed to be most prevalent in liberal market economies like the USA and the UK where the need for business legitimacy is greatest… Our results suggest that worker representatives are also an important factor in explaining the spread of some types of explicit CSR policies to coordinated market economies.”

Link to the paper.

  • The development of codetermination in Germany and Sweden has been the subject of numerous academic debates. Peter Swenson’s widely cited account concludes that codetermination was the product of a persistent “cross-class alliance.” By contrast, Walter Korpi’s “power-resource” interpretation argues that these institutions reflect a “distributive conflict and partisan politics based in social class.” Link to an article which lays out the first analysis, and link to one which presents the second.
  • A more recent paper by legal scholar Ewan McGaughey argues that codetermination in Germany was the result not of legal compulsion, but of the strength and unity of the German labor movement. Link.
  • Support for wage boards is growing among the American public, according to David Madland. Link to his analysis of the most recent public poll, his policy proposal, and coverage of the proposal on Vice.
  • To understand the degradation of collective bargaining models across European economies, see Lucio Baccaro and Chris Howell’s most recent book, Trajectories of Neoliberal Transformation. See especially chapters 6 and 8, which discuss the pressures faced by bargaining institutions in Germany and Sweden. Link.


Inheritance laws and female autonomy in the developing world

A new paper by DUMAN BAHRAMI-RAD, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, studies the potentially negative effects of female inheritance laws on the lives of women and girls in patrilineal societies. Included in the 2019 Pacific Conference for Development Economics assembled by the Center for Effective Global Action, the paper quantitatively assesses how female inheritance laws in the developing world may have a positive effect on the cousin marriage rate and limit female autonomy. The paper utilizes three datasets—on pre-industrial society, Italian Provinces, and Indonesian individuals—to find that “female inheritance is associated with a higher prevalence of cousin and arranged marriages as well as lower female economic participation and premarital sexual freedom.” From the paper:

“Due to deep-rooted differences in their geography, subsistence economy, and agricultural and political organization, patrilineal societies ended up with different prevailing inheritance systems. I argued that patrilineal societies that traditionally included women in inheritance have developed practices encouraging inmarriage and controlling women’s sexuality in order to preserve the property within the patrilineage, prevent its fragmentation, and limit conflicting claims on the estate.”

Link to the paper, link to the ungated version, link to Duman Bahrami-Rad’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:


  • A new paper by Todd Gabe, Jaison R. Abel, and Richard Florida examines occupational mobility in the United States from 2011-2017, finding that “around 70% of workers in low-end occupations stayed in the same occupation, 11% exited the labor force, 7% became unemployed, and 6% switched to a different low-end occupation.” Link.
  • Philipp Schonegger: “The Moral Behavior of Ethics Professors,” a replication study. The main behavior to which professors align their ethics is vegetarianism. Link.
  • “We project that expected warming in the next century will encourage further urbanization in middle-income countries such as Argentina, but it will slow down urban transition in poor countries like Malawi and Niger.” Giovanni Peri and Akira Sasahara anticipate the impact of climate change on rural-urban migration around the world. Link.
  • A post at World Bank blog by Koen Geven and Estelle Herbaut on the findings from their review on inequality in higher ed. One takeaway: “don’t just treat pupils with some information about the benefits of college, but give them active support through high school.” Link to the post, link to the working paper.
  • At Freedom to Tinker, Annette Zimmermann and Bendert Zevenbergen outline seven traps of AI ethics, including “(1) the reductionism trap, (2) the simplicity trap, (3) the relativism trap, (4) the value alignment trap, (5) the dichotomy trap, (6) the myopia trap, and (7) the rule of law trap.”Link.
  • “We find vulnerability to automation to be an important determinant of the demand for redistribution that should not be ignored.” Stefan Thewissen and David Rueda consider the potential for automation to transform European welfare politics. Link.
  • Zoe Loftus-Farren investigates how public records laws are used to impede social research in California. Link.
  • A fascinating and comprehensive series by Vox details the massive urban plan being implemented in Barcelona aimed at “reclaiming more than half the streets devoted to cars for mixed-use public spaces, or ‘superblocks.’” With support from the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, the five-part series traces the urban history of Barcelona, the history of the superblock project, and discusses reservations and conflict surrounding large-scale urban transformation. Link. The writer of the series, David Roberts, conducted a Reddit AMA on the topic yesterday. Link.
  • Micro-summaries more than 275 economics papers on African economies, from the Center for the Study of African Economies 2019 Conference held at Oxford last month. Link.
  • “Few inventions have been so simple as the stirrup, but few have had so catalytic an influence on history. The requirements of the new mode of warfare which it made possible found expression in a new form of western European society dominated by an aristocracy of warriors endowed with land so that they might fight in a new and highly specialized way. Inevitably this nobility developed cultural forms and patterns of thought and emotion in harmony with its style of mounted shock combat and its social posture. The Man on Horseback, as we have known him during the past millennium, was made possible by the stirrup, which joined man and steed into a fighting organism. Antiquity imagined the Centaur; the early Middle Ages made him the master of Europe.” From a 1962 study by Lynn White, Jr. Link.

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

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