Green Stripe


As debate and discussion continues over reforms to US policing, attention has been drawn to the share of municipal and state budgets dedicated to police departments. While a useful proxy of governmental priorities, these budgets only tell part of the complex story of the role and function of police in society.

In a their 2008 book chapter titled “The Enforcement-Equality Trade Off,” ARJUN JAYADEV and SAMUEL elaborate the role of what they term “guard labor”—the labor units “devoted to the maintenance of order.”

From the chapter:

“In order to maintain order, all societies allocate resources to defence, policing, surveillance, contractual monitoring and other activities that sustain the property rights and other claims that characterise status quo institutions. Data from the United States indicate a significant increase in its extent in the USA over the period 1890 to the present. Cross-national comparisons show a significant statistical association between income inequality and the fraction of the labour force that is constituted by guard labour, as well as with measures of political legitimacy (inversely) and political conflict.

Continental European welfare states devote considerably less resources to the maintenance of order than do the English-speaking economies. A possible explanation is that these economies divert fewer resources from directly productive uses to guard labour by undertaking larger transfers of claims on resources in the form of social expenditures and higher wages.”

Link to the report.

  • For more on guard labor, link to a 2019 newsletter, in we shared Jayadev’s classic 2006 paper with Samuel Bowles on guard labor. Also shared in that letter, a 2014 Times op-ed by Bowles and Jayadev on the subject, with an unbeatable infographic comparing the US’ share of guard labor to other rich nations.
  • See Jayadev’s paper “Estimating Guard Labor” for more on the employment statistics behind their analysis. Link. And link to a 2018 blog post on police and prison spending in the US and Europe. Link.
  • For more on the relationship between the labor market and policing and prisons, see this recent paper by Seth Prins and Adam Reich. Link. See also a 2002 paper by Eric Gould et al on crime rates and labor market opportunity from 1979-1997. Link.
  • “Inequality and Guard Labor, or Prohibition and Guard Labor?” by Vincent Geloso and Vadim Kufenko. Link.


The origins of ranchos in 20th century Mexico

ROMINA ROBLES RUVALCABA is a Postdoc in History at the University of Chicago. Her 2017 PhD dissertation examined the struggle for land rights in Caxcana, Jalisco between 1939 and 1959, a period during which the region saw a massive increase in agricultural productivity.

From the introduction:

“At the national level, this period marked the end of countryside’s basic unit of socioeconomic life: the hacienda. Scholars have paid surprisingly little attention to new social structures emerging after 1940, when war, agrarian reform, power politics, and emboldened farmers forced their eradication. This dissertation explores the form of land tenure that took the hacienda’s place as the key engine of rural society throughout Mexico: the Mexican rancho, or farm, also commonly known in the post-Revolutionary twentieth century as the pequeña propiedad. I argue that the rancho rose as a dominant form of land tenure post 1940, establishing its regime of property relations over the vast lands formerly belonging to hacienda owners. In my dissertation, the rancho represents the fight of farmers not only to guarantee their livelihood, but to eradicate traditional forms of arbitrary violence.”

Link to the paper, link to Ruvalcaba’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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  • On the blog, Adam Tooze in conversation with Michael Pettis and Matthew Klein about their recent book Trade Wars Are Class Wars. Link. (And link to the recording of the discussion on YouTube.)
  • “Using an underutilized data set on the conditions associated with World Bank loans, we find that borrower countries that vote with the United States at the UN are required to enact fewer domestic policy reforms, and on fewer and softer issue areas.” Richard Clark and Lindsay R. Dolan on the indirect avenues of US global influence. Link.
  • Andrea Garnero with novel data on the impact of centralization and coordination in wage bargaining on unemployment and inequality. Link.
  • “The 19th century witnessed a major expansion in the construction of public works including canals, roads, and railways across the British empire. Focusing specifically on irrigation works and the rivers of southern India, this article examines the different ways colonial governments sought to finance public works, including corporate investment through London capital markets. By the latter part of the century, irrigation projects were definitively financed through state debt.” Aditya Ramesh considers British speculation on Indian rivers. Link.
  • A special issue of Social Policy and Society on taxation: “Social policy analyses can reveal the ways in which taxation policies contradict and even undermine the stated goals of other public policies.” Link to the open access introduction, by Micheál Collins, Sally Ruane, and Adrian Sinfield.
  • Kory Kroft et. al on imperfect competition in America’s construction industry. Link.
  • In the new issue of European Labor Law, David Mangan and Adalberto Perulli reflect on changing employee classifications, and Philippa Collins proposes a “Bill of Rights for Workers.” Link, link, and link.
  • Bolormaa Gochoosuren’s 2013 dissertation on “Transformation of Social Welfare Policy in Mongolia, 1990-2010.” Link.
  • “When does reform provoke rebellion among its intended beneficiaries, and when does it discourage it? To answer this question, we look at Russia’s emancipation of the serfs in 1861, and the accompanying program of land reform, whereby land rights and feudal obligations were renegotiated in anticipation of the eventual transfer of land from the nobility to the peasantry. A key feature of Russian emancipation was the inability of the central government to carry out reform on its own. The process was therefore carried out locally, with the participation of the nobility whose privileges were at stake. Much of the unrest that followed had its roots in that local implementation. We conclude that when–for reasons of state capacity or the nature of reform–the implementation of reform is predominantly local, a more ambitious reform leads to greater disappointment and thus more unrest.” Evgeny Finkel & Scott Gehlbach, Reform and Rebellion in Weak States. Download for free until June 17th. Link.

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

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