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The first Monday in September is Labor Day, a day which the US Department of Labor describes as being “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers”. To mark Labor Day 2019, USAPP blog Managing Editor Chris Gilson brings together ten important USAPP articles on work, employment, training, careers, and workers’ rights.


Public workforce programs can have a good return on investment – especially when training leads to a qualification. (2019)

Work-related training and qualifications are very important in today’s knowledge-intensive economy. Public workforce programs help to connect workers to jobs via helping with job searches, and through training schemes. As funding cuts shift the bill for these programs to state and local governments Elsie Harper-Anderson looks at the return for investing in job seekers’ training. Focusing on workforce programs in Virginia, she finds for every dollar spent on providing training through one program, the authority received nearly $4 back through reduced welfare costs and increased tax returns, with the figure topping $5 when participants gained a qualification.  

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United Airlines in-flight catering workers’ union victory shows there is hope in the face of employers’ anti-union campaigns and weak legal protections (2018) 

Last month, nearly 3,000 in-flight catering workers employed by United Airlines at six major US airports won union recognition after an election which was opposed tooth and nail by their employers. Lauren Burke writes that the workers were able to overcome a combination of heavy anti-union opposition from United and labor laws which largely favor employers by recruiting large numbers of employees into organizing roles and winning the support of local immigrant communities.

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Stay at home parents face a big job market penalty when they try to re-enter the workforce (2018)

Like those who are trying to return to the workforce after being unemployed, stay at home parents also face a disadvantage when trying to find a new job. But which is a greater disadvantage for jobseekers, unemployment or having been a stay-at-home parent? In new research which examines job openings across 50 US cities, Kate Weisshaar finds that compared to job applicants that were already employed, stay-at-home mothers and fathers were significantly less likely to be called back by an employer for a job – less likely even than those who had experienced a period of unemployment.

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Why reducing urban traffic congestion can help the American middle class (2018) 

No-one likes to be stuck in traffic – but what are the larger effects of delays due to congestion beyond just being late for work? Using data from Los Angeles, Yuting Hou examines how these sorts of delays influence house prices. She finds that peak-period congestion delays are linked to lower house prices because they make jobs less accessible. The negative effects of these delays are most felt in middle-income neighborhoods compared to low and high income areas. 

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How bureaucracy can help maintain sexism and inequality in the US military (2017) 

Five years ago the US military’s long-standing ban on women in ground combat was lifted. But, writes Stephanie Bonnes, the ‘bureaucratic harassment’ of women has meant that many policies that have been rescinded have continued. Using in-depth interviews with US servicewomen, she finds that servicemen are able to manipulate bureaucratic policies to harass and undermine women and their careers, allow sexual assaults to continue, and to preserve male dominance in the military. 

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How high school training for work in blue-collar communities helps manufacture workplace gender inequality. (2017)

In states in the Rust Belt and the Southeast, many high schools emphasize courses related to local blue-collar work in order to better prepare students for careers in local industries. In new research, April SuttonAmanda Bosky and Chandra Muller find that such emphases are often at the expense of college-preparation courses, which in turn has a knock-on effect for female employment rates. Women who are raised in blue-collar communities, and thus who missed out on college preparation courses, face a much bigger wage gap than those who attended high-school elsewhere.

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A generous welfare state can help reduce unemployment – if there are good job opportunities for the jobless. (2017)

Are state unemployment benefits a safety net or a hammock for the lazy? In new research, Thomas Biegert explores the effects of benefits on job seekers in 20 European countries and the US. He finds that in some countries, generous benefits are linked with high unemployment rates, while in others, the opposite is the case. This difference, he writes, may be related to the setup of a country’s labor market; people are willing to work despite generous benefits if there are good job opportunities. 

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The American Dream eludes many urban youth of color. And they think it’s their own fault. (2017)

Segregation is not a thing of the past for young people of color in the US; many attend under-resourced and segregated school districts. Despite these disadvantages, America’s leaders tell young people of color that they can achieve the “American Dream” via hard work and determination. In new research, David T. Lardier Jr.Kathryn G. HerrVeronica R. BarriosPauline Garcia-Reid and Robert J. Reid argue that despite the evidence that shows that there is an acute lack of opportunity for many young people of color, many accept that their fates rise and fall based on their own effort and self-determination.

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Among underemployed college graduates, the role of class looms large (2017) 

Compared to past decades, a far higher percentage of Americans now attend college. But those who graduate often must contend with high levels of student debt, and face a more uncertain labor market which can lead to underemployment. In new research which looks at post-college underemployment, Kody Steffy finds that those graduates who considered that they were voluntarily underemployed tended to be middle-class, had more access to support, and felt more positively about the experience. By contrast, those who felt that their underemployment was not a choice were often from working-class backgrounds and struggled more.

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In Los Angeles, the geography of where people work has been experiencing rapid change. (2017)

Just as cities are places where people live, they are also places where they work. But does where people work in cities remain stable over time? In new research focusing on Los Angeles, Kevin Kane and the UC-Irvine Metropolitan Futures Initiative look at changes in where jobs are located between 1997 and 2014. They find that over the study period, employment centers emerged, grew, contracted and died far more often than expected, meaning that their location did not remain constant. He also finds that emerging centers of employment were more likely to be found close to transport infrastructure and Los Angeles’ downtown.

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Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of USAPP – American Politics and Policy, nor the London School of Economics.

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About the author

Chris GilsonLSE US Centre
Chris Gilson is the Managing Editor of USAPP, the US Centre’s daily blog on US politics and policy. In 2012, Chris was the recipient of a UK Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award for Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year for the LSE’s blog initiatives. In April 2019, his project, The State of the States, was recognised with a Guardian University Award for digital innovation. He is the co-author, with Amy Mollett, Cheryl Brumley, and Sierra Williams, of Communicating Your Research with Social Media: A Practical Guide to Using Blogs, Podcasts, Data Visualisations and Video (Sage, 2017).

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