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Labor-Market Regimes in U.S. Economic History

Joshua L. Rosenbloom

University of Kansas; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

William A. Sundstrom

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department

June 2009

NBER Working Paper No. w15055

In much economic analysis it is a convenient fiction to suppose that changes over time in wages and employment are determined by shifts in supply or demand within a more or less competitive market framework Indeed, this framework has been effectively deployed to understand many episodes in American economic history. We argue here, however, that by minimizing the role of labor-market institutions such an approach is incomplete. Drawing on the history of American labor markets over two centuries, we argue that institutions--by which we mean both formal and informal rules that constrain the choices of economic agents--have played a significant role in the determination of wages, employment and other market outcomes over time. The historical evolution of American labor markets can best be characterized as a sequence of relatively stable arrangements punctuated by shifts in institutional regimes. Our narrative emphasizes the importance of understanding the historically contingent role of institutional regimes in conditioning the operation of supply and demand in empirical and policy analysis of the labor market.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

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Date posted: June 8, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Rosenbloom, Joshua L. and Sundstrom, William A., Labor-Market Regimes in U.S. Economic History (June 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15055. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1415217

Contact Information

Joshua L. Rosenbloom (Contact Author)
University of Kansas ( email )
Department of Economics
1460 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045
United States
785-864-2839 (Phone)
785-864-5270 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
William A. Sundstrom
Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department ( email )
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States
408-554-4341 (Phone)
408-554-2331 (Fax)
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