On WBUR (Boston, MA)’s On Point, listen to Jake Rosenfeld unpack the irrationality behind our comparative wages and salaries:
“This is the book to throw at your human resources director—not literally, of course—when any attempt is being made to bamboozle you about how decisions on pay have been made…It is a closely argued, thoroughly researched treatise on how we got here and how pay could be both fairer and more effective as a reward.”—Stefan Stern, Financial World
“A flat-out revelation of a book by one of the nation’s top scholars of the labor market…required reading for anyone who cares about the future of work in America.”—Matthew Desmond, author of Poverty, by America
“Jake Rosenfeld pulls back the curtain on the multifaceted cultural, institutional, and market forces at play in wage-setting. This timely book illuminates the power dynamics and often arbitrary forces that have contributed to the egregious inequality in the U.S. labor market—and then lays out a clear blueprint for progressive change.”—Thea Lee, President of the Economic Policy Institute
A myth-busting book challenges the idea that we’re paid according to objective criteria and places power and social conflict at the heart of economic analysis.
Your pay depends on your productivity and occupation. If you earn roughly the same as others in your job, with the precise level determined by your performance, then you’re paid market value. And who can question something as objective and impersonal as the market? That, at least, is how many of us tend to think. But according to Jake Rosenfeld, we need to think again.
Job performance and occupational characteristics do play a role in determining pay, but judgments of productivity and value are also highly subjective. What makes a lawyer more valuable than a teacher? How do you measure the output of a police officer, a professor, or a reporter? Why, in the past few decades, did CEOs suddenly become hundreds of times more valuable than their employees? The answers lie not in objective criteria but in battles over interests and ideals. In this contest 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 economics, original survey data, and a journalistic eye for compelling stories and revealing details.
At a time when unions and bargaining power are declining and inequality is rising, You’re Paid What You’re Worth is a crucial resource for understanding that most basic of social questions: Who gets what and why?