Politicians, journalists, and the public have expressed rising concern about the decline—or percieved decline—in middle-class jobs. The U.S. work force is viewed as increasingly divided between a prosperous minority that enjoys ever-rising wages and a less affluent majority that struggles harder each year to make ends meet.
To determine whether and why this view of the job market is accurate, labor market economists anaylze trends in the distribution of jobs and wages over the past two decades and attempt to forecast the future course of American earnings inequality.
McKinley L. Blackburn, David E. Bloom, and Richard B. Freeman assess the reasons behind the deterioration of earnings and job opportunities among less skilled men. They consider the impact of changes in industrial structure, declines in unionization, and trends in the level and quality of schooling for men who have limited skills and education. Gary Burtless examines the effect of the business cycle, within and across different regions of the United States, on earnings inequality and analyzes the effects of demographic change on inequality over the past twenty years. Rebecca M. Blank studies the rise of part-time employment and its impact on wages, fringe benefits, and the quality of jobs.
Linda Dachter Loury focuses on the effect of the baby boom and baby bust on demand for schooling among new labor market entrants. If young entrants are discouraged from seeking college training by the high cost or low payoff of schooling, the long-term impact will be a gradual decline in the skills of the U.S. work force.
Robert Mofitt analyzes the effect of welfare state programs on the growth of low-wage jobs, and the extent to which the welfare reforms of the eighties have affected low-income workers.