ABOUT THIS BOOK
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?
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 all here: the economics, psychology, sociology and (crucially) mythology that underpin wages and how they are set. 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
Rosenfeld debunks contemporary myths about work and wages in this illuminating account.
-- Publishers Weekly
You’re Paid What You’re Worth is a lively and rigorous study that will change debates over labor markets. Rosenfeld’s original research serves as a very important rejoinder to old ideas in economics and to conventional wisdom in the mass public.
-- Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Columbia University
Rosenfeld’s book provides a rich sociological theory of the labor market, showing why and how wages are largely set by norms, organizational practices, and institutions.
-- Suresh Naidu, Columbia University
A flat-out revelation of a book by one of the nation’s top scholars of the labor market, You’re Paid What You’re Worth is required reading for anyone who cares about the future of work in America. With concise prose informed by history and cutting-edge research, Rosenfeld dispels one myth after another about how the modern economy works and champions thoughtful solutions for how American prosperity can once more lead to broad social uplift.
-- Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
The growth in earnings inequality requires us to understand what determines pay in the economy. Jake Rosenfeld’s book provides nuanced and bold insight into the question of ‘who gets what and why?’ He challenges widely held assumptions and approaches in this area by probing the impact of fairness norms, organizational inertia and mimicry, and most importantly power in determining pay. In so doing, he provides novel and provocative perspectives on policies to address this pressing problem.
-- David Weil, Dean, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
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 US labor market—and then lays out a clear blueprint for progressive change.
-- Thea Lee, President of the Economic Policy Institute
A stimulating reading for social scientists.
-- Antonio Abatemarco Journal of Economics
Rosenfeld outlines many of the injustices that underpin the American economy…Offers a series of sensible reforms that would help tweak the balance in favor of employees.
-- Andrew Leigh Inside Story
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part I: Questions About Pay
1. What Does Determine Our Pay?
2. What Do We Think Determines Our Pay?
Part II: Paying for Performance?
3. Employers Against the Free Market
4. Mismeasuring Performance and the Pitfalls of Paying for Merit
5. The Bosses’ Boss
Part III: Paying for the Job?
6. When Good Jobs Go Bad
7. Bad Jobs Can Be Good
Part IV: Toward a Fairer Wage
8. Rethinking Inequality
9. Toward a Fairer Wage
Epilogue: What Foot Soldiers Deserve