The Russell Sage Foundation’s program on the Future of Work supports innovative research on the causes and consequences of changes in the quality of jobs for less- and moderately-skilled workers and their families. They seek investigator-initiated research proposals that will broaden their understanding of the role of changes in employer practices, the nature of the labor market and public policies on the employment, earnings, and the quality of jobs of workers. They are especially interested in proposals that address important questions about the interplay of market and non-market forces in shaping the wellbeing of workers, today and in the future.
Examples of the kinds of topics and questions that are of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:
Changing economies, changing families and policy responses (or lack thereof)
• Workplaces and families are changing. Work arrangements are more flexible, but also less secure. Are we seeing the development of new ways of working and what do these changes portend for employers and employees?
• New work-family legislation has been enacted in several cities and states. What do we know about the impact of these new laws on employers, workers, and families?
• What is the current landscape with regard to work-family policy initiatives at different levels of government? What factors explain both recent changes and the lack of other changes? What are the implications?
The economics of productivity and the role of managerial practices in improving job quality
• During the Great Recession, employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage occupations. By contrast, during the recovery employment gains have been concentrated in lower-wage occupations. How can the quality of labor-intensive personal-service jobs be improved? What works and what doesn’t in efforts to improve job quality (e.g., improving employer practices, appropriate regulation, work force organizing, apprenticeship programs)?
• What are some economic and cultural determinants of managerial choices? What factors determine which employers opt to take the “high road” and which take the “low road,” and why?
• What role do macroeconomic policies and labor market institutions play in job quality?
Causes and consequences of job polarisation
• The changing labor market presents numerous challenges to workers’ aspirations to reach the middle class. Adverse employment shocks may change the ways in which young adults form families of their own, the likelihood that they will engage in risky behaviors and norms and expectations about the transition to adulthood. How have changes in the availability of stable jobs affected the likelihood that the children of working class parents will become middle-class?
• In many households, adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). Have intra-family transfers changed as a result of changes in the structure of the labor market? How does support to multiple generations affect labor supply at various stages in the life course?
Effects of long-term unemployment and strategies to prevent long-term disadvantage
• Several years after the official end of the Great Recession, the U.S. still faces high levels of long-term unemployment. These workers face significant disadvantages—from loss of earnings, to the deterioration of skills, high rates of poverty, increased likelihood of divorce, and deterioration of physical and mental health. And the longer they remain unemployed, the more likely that employers’ bias against them will harden. How does the likelihood of finding a job change with increasing duration of unemployment? What does this mean for federal employment policies and for workforce development strategies? What kind of interventions may help prevent long-term disadvantage for both displaced workers and first-time labor market entrants in the wake of the Great Recession?