The End of Inequality? Effects of Work Reorganization Amid Resurgent Worker Power – Prof. Nathan Wilmers
Join us for the Inequity Speaker Series with Professor Nathan Wilmers, from the Institute for Work and Employment Research and the Economic Sociology program at MIT.
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- Date: Friday, February 10, 2023
- Time: 11 am – 12 pm
- Format: Virtual
Talk Title: The End of Inequality? Effects of Work Reorganization Amid Resurgent Worker Power
Abstract: Over the last 10 years, pay increased more for low-wage workers than for managers and professionals. This unexpected decline in US inequality is mainly due to tight labor markets, not to revitalized unions or re-embedded employment relations. Will these fragile gains be institutionalized as higher-paying jobs? In this talk, I propose a task-based theory of 3 scenarios in which employers institutionalize higher-paying jobs for low-wage workers: a wage-effort bargain, relational contracting over discretion, and skill upgrading. I then discuss two projects that test whether these employer strategies actually benefit workers. In one, we conduct the first ever match between US linked employer-employee data and job descriptions from online job postings. This lets us ask whether, when a job shifts toward more autonomy or task complexity, earnings increase for new hires into that job. The second project addresses the wage-effort bargain: using a measure of work intensification drawn from online job reviews, we study whether work intensification accounts for rising pay for low-wage workers. This research shows how the sociology of work can help to explain macro-inequality trends and to identify opportunities for durably higher-paying jobs.
Speaker Profile: Prof.Wilmers is the the Sarofim Family Career Development Associate Professor of Work and Organizations at MIT Sloan School of Management, researching wage and earnings inequality, economic sociology and the sociology of labor. He is affiliated with the Institute for Work and Employment Research and the Economic Sociology program.
Nathan studies how organizations and social relations affect wage inequality and earnings growth. Rising earnings inequality since the 1970s has come mostly from growing wage differences between different companies, not between co-workers. Drawing on economic sociology, he provides new evidence on the distributional effects of changes in pay practices, organizational boundaries, labor unions, and task allocation.
His research appears in Administrative Science Quarterly, American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology and Social Forces. It has been covered in media outlets including Washington Post, BBC, Nature: Human Behavior, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Hill, The Boston Globe, NBC News, Financial Times, and CNBC.