Rackedinterviews entrepreneur and professional line-sitter Robert Samuel. Samuels started his line-sitting venture, Same Old Line Dudes (SOLD Inc.), as the iPhone 5 was launched:
I was an employee at AT&T, and I lost my job. I wanted to supplement my income because I used to sell iPhones, and this time I wasn’t going to be able to sell them and make a big commission check. I live a few blocks from the Apple store on 14th Street, so I said, “Let me wait in line for somebody else and make them happy.”
The guy that hired me cancelled and said he wasn’t going to use me—he was just going to get it online but that he was still going to pay me. He paid me $100 and I resold the spot and made another $100, and then I called my friends and told them to come on down, because I just made $200 standing in one spot on a weekday afternoon.
I’m a father of three girls and I’m into technology. I keep hearing that there is a major bias toward men in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at college and in the workforce. I also regularly see blog posts, videos, interviews and podcasts where women are discussing how this is not right and that we need to have more equality in STEM. All good and more women in tech would be a good thing as women are major users of technology.
But it struck me that I have near heard of men fighting for more men to study traditionally female-dominated subjects or jobs like primary-school teacher, nurse, PR officers and therapists.
Why are women fighting for more women to do STEM while men are not fighting for more men to be therapists?
My quick response to him:
I’m guessing it’s b/c of the wage differential but you are right, it’s worth asking.
A recent one-day strike by fast-food workers has called attention to the low wages in the industry. James Surowieckioffers one reason that the issue’s visibility has increased recently:
Still, the reason this has become a big political issue is not that the jobs have changed; it’s that the people doing the jobs have. Historically, low-wage work tended to be done either by the young or by women looking for part-time jobs to supplement family income. As the historian Bethany Moreton has shown, Walmart in its early days sought explicitly to hire underemployed married women. Fast-food workforces, meanwhile, were dominated by teen-agers. Now, though, plenty of family breadwinners are stuck in these jobs. That’s because, over the past three decades, the U.S. economy has done a poor job of creating good middle-class jobs; five of the six fastest-growing job categories today pay less than the median wage. That’s why, as a recent study by the economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones has shown, low-wage workers are older and better educated than ever. More important, more of them are relying on their paychecks not for pin money or to pay for Friday-night dates but, rather, to support families. Forty years ago, there was no expectation that fast-food or discount-retail jobs would provide a living wage, because these were not jobs that, in the main, adult heads of household did. Today, low-wage workers provide forty-six per cent of their family’s income. It is that change which is driving the demand for higher pay.
Given that reality, Surowiecki writes, raising the minimum wage by a few bucks a hour won’t fix the problem. His prescription: more truly middle-class jobs and an expansion of the social safety net. “Fast-food jobs in Germany and the Netherlands,” he writes, “aren’t much better-paid than in the U.S., but a stronger safety net makes workers much better off.”
Sarah Halzack, writing for The Washington Post, explores how LinkedIn is changing job-searching and recruiting:
As LinkedIn has exploded — perhaps because it has exploded — there has been a major shift in the way employers find new workers. Gone are the days of “post and pray,” a recruiter’s adage for the practice of advertising a job opening and then idly hoping that good candidates swim up to the bait.
Now the process of talent acquisition is something of a hunt.
“We’re really at a point now where all of your employees are vulnerable to being poached. Every single one,” said Josh Bersin, principal and founder of talent consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte.
The change is happening rapidly: A 2013 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 77 percent of employers are using social networks to recruit, a sharp increase from the 56 percent who reported doing so in 2011. And among the recruiters using social tools, 94 percent said they are using LinkedIn.
Recruiter Chris Scalia told Halzack that the type of candidates he sees on LinkedIn is also changing. “LinkedIn was always known for where you would go to find that really critical, challenging hire,” Scalia said. “It was never really where you would go for a PC technician or something at the lower end of the career mobility scale. Now I see both. It is completely flooded.”
I haven’t spent all that much time in Spain but one of the most striking observations from a recent visit was how hard it is to buy a train ticket from a machine. In many cases, you have to wait in (long) line for a human ticket-seller. Whenever I asked why, I was told this was simply done to protect jobs — an understandable, if unsatisfying, defense in a country with 27% unemployment.
It does make me wonder how much a country or culture with a strong sense of job protection will be resistant to technological changes purely on employment grounds, even if they might produce large gains for the greater good.
A new study by Bradley W. Lane, Natalie Messer-Betts, Devin Hartmann, Sanya Carley, Rachel M. Krause, and John D. Graham on why governments promote electric vehicles finds that the environmental benefits of the vehicles have little to do with politicians’ motives for supporting the industry. Perhaps not surprisingly, “Government Promotion of the Electric Car: Risk Management or Industrial Policy?” (gated) finds that the economic benefits of the industry are the primary motivator for most governments. From the press release:
Contrary to common belief, many of the world’s most powerful nations promote the manufacture and sale of electric vehicles primarily for reasons of economic development – notably job creation – not because of their potential to improve the environment through decreased air pollution and oil consumption.
This is among the main findings of a study by researchers at the Indiana University Bloomington School of Public and Environmental (SPEA) and University of Kansas that analyzed policies related to electric vehicles (EVs) in California, China, the European Union, France, Germany, and the United States – political jurisdictions with significant automotive industries and markets for EVs.
“Billions of dollars are being invested despite doubts that some express about the viability of electricity as a propulsion system,” said John D. Graham, SPEA dean and co-author of the study. “The objective of many of these national and sub-national governments is to establish a significant position – or even dominance – in the global marketplace for these emerging, innovative new technologies.”
The Economist takes a look at the software that big companies are using to sort through job applicants. It finds that people who use Chrome and Firefox browsers are better employees, and people with criminal records are suited to work in call centers. One drawback to having a computer sort potential employees is that its algorithms may treat some variables as proxies for race, as discussed in our “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” podcast, in which the Harvard computer scientist Latanya Sweeney found that distinctively black names are more likely to draw ads that offer arrest records.
Our latest podcast is called “Help Wanted. No Smokers Need Apply.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, orread the transcript.)
In many states (21, to be precise), it is perfectly legal for an employer to not hire someone who smokes. This might seem understandable, given that health insurance is often coupled to employment, and since healthcare risks and costs are increasingly pooled. And so: if employers can exclude smokers, should they also be able to weed out junk-food lovers or motorcyclists — or perhaps anyone who wants to have a baby?
A lot of people write to us looking for work — which, sadly, we are nearly always unable to provide. But once in a while we do hear of a good opportunity for the Freakonomically inclined. To wit:
The U.K. Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insight Team — better known as the Nudge Unit because of its allegiance to the excellent Richard Thaler/Cass Sunstein book Nudge — is looking to expand. Here’s the job listing. Some relevant excerpts:
Successful candidates will need to show that they: 1. have a good understanding of the behavioural science literature 2. have an understanding and ideally ability to conduct randomised controlled trials to test policy interventions; and 3. are highly motivated individuals capable of developing innovative solutions to often complex policy problems. 4. are strong team players
Candidates should be prepared to work on potentially any aspect of government or wider public sector policy. For example, over the past year the team has led work on health, energy, fraud, electoral registration, charitable giving, consumer affairs, the labour market, and access to finance for SMEs [that’s Euro-speak for “small and medium enterprises“]
On America’s first subway, Boston’s Green line, the middle doors stopped opening. When I asked the driver to open the doors, he said that he couldn’t: now all boarding and deboarding at the above-ground stops is through the narrow front door by the fare box. Ah, the MBTA: making up for the 23 percent fare hikes on July 1 with improved service!
Me: “The new policy slows the ride for everyone. Now passengers cannot board and pay their fares until all the deboarding passengers have left.”
Driver, shrugging: “It’s the new policy. I just do what my boss tells me to do. I don’t question.”
Me: “We could use some questioning.”
Driver: “Questioning isn’t part of my job. I just wait for my pay day.”
Here’s a fascinating new working paper from Yale economist David G. Atkin, called “Endogenous Skill Acquisition and Export Manufacturing in Mexico” (abstract here; PDF of an earlier version here). The gist:
This paper presents empirical evidence that the growth of export manufacturing in Mexico during a period of major trade reforms, the years 1986-2000, altered the distribution of education. I use variation in the timing of factory openings across municipalities to show that school dropout increased with local expansions in export manufacturing. The magnitudes I find suggest that for every twenty jobs created, one student dropped out of school at grade 9 rather than continuing through to grade 12. These effects are driven by the least-skilled export-manufacturing jobs which raised the opportunity cost of schooling for students at the margin.
It makes sense, of course, that students on the margin might happily abandon school in favor of a good job. But is that necessarily a bad thing? How should a society balance jobs and educational ambition? And who should be thinking harder about this issue — India or China? Or perhaps the U.S.?
Writing for Slate, Ray Fisman (who’s been on the blog before) explains why “the bottom 20 percent of American families earned less in 2010 than they did in 2006, the year before the recession began”:
There are two broad shifts that account for much of this decline: globalization and computerization. From T-shirts to toys, manufacturing jobs have migrated to low-wage countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, and of course China. Meanwhile, many of the tasks that might have been done by middle-income Americans employed as bookkeepers or middle managers have been replaced by spreadsheets and data algorithms.
Fisman argues that in order to succeed in the new economy, American workers need to shift away from construction and manufacturing jobs to “high touch” professions. “If jobs are being lost to low-wage Indians and computer programs, then what today’s worker needs is a set of skills that offers the personal touch and judgment that can’t be provided by a machine or someone 12 time zones away,” writes Fisman.
“Audit studies” have been popular in labor economics research for 10 years. The researcher sends resumés of artificial job applicants in response to job openings. Typically there is a crucial difference in some characteristic of the person that indicates a particular racial/gender/ethnic or other group to which one person within a pair of resumés belongs while the other does not. The differential response of employers to the difference in the characteristic implied by the resumés is taken as a measure of discrimination in hiring.
We recently solicited your questions for Alan Krueger, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Below are Krueger’s answers, in which he talks about the Bush tax cuts, the American Jobs Act, and why NFL coaches should go for it on fourth down. Thanks to everyone for participating.
Q. The recovery from the recent recession has been great for corporate profits, but not so great for employment. I think that this is a natural result of the fact that when demand is insufficient, corporations focus on improving productivity rather than on producing more goods and services.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “The Dilbert Index?” (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.) It’s about workplace morale and the measurement thereof.
This segment was largely crowd-sourced from Freakonomics blog readers — so: thanks! It began with a blog post in which a reader named Tim Wadlow asserted that the direction you park in your company lot may say something about company morale. We then opened up the blog to further observations on company morale. One of the most interesting: the “Dilbert Index,” as described by a reader named Damon Beaven:
BEAVEN: I look for the number of Dilbert comics and that seems to be inversely proportional to the level of morale. A lot of Dilbert comics seems to be like a passive aggressive way of an employee complaining.
We also take a step back and ask the basic questions like: How much does company morale matter to a company’s bottom line? What’s the best way to measure morale? And, in the realm of unintended consequences, what happens when a company tries to cut down on sick days?
Supporters of stronger intellectual property enforcement — such as those behind the proposed new Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in Congress — argue that online piracy is a huge problem, one which costs the U.S. economy between $200 and $250 billion per year, and is responsible for the loss of 750,000 American jobs.
These numbers seem truly dire: a $250 billion per year loss would be almost $800 for every man, woman, and child in America. And 750,000 jobs – that’s twice the number of those employed in the entire motion picture industry in 2010.
Last month, we wrote about data pulled from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), examining how Americans spend their lost work hours during the recession. While 32% of foregone work hours were spent watching TV and sleeping (not great, though sleeping is helpful), 15% of that time went to “other leisure,” among which, there is “listening to music” and “being on the computer,” as well as “exercise and recreation.”
Two new studies (both coauthored by Dhaval M. Dave of Bentley University) drill further into that ATUS data to paint a more complete picture of our exercise and physical activity habits, and ultimately, what impact they have on our health. The first finds that during the recession, we engage in more voluntary exercise, but have less exertion. Part of this has to do with the difference between exercise and physical activity — the latter is seen as the healthier of the two. (Better to walk to work everyday than do sit-ups twice a week.) With the loss of work, comes a loss of physical activity — particularly with the types of jobs we’ve lost.
Of course higher unemployment generally raises unemployment among men, women and minorities. But how does it affect the wages of workers who keep their jobs? I believe a new paper that I coauthored with Jeff Biddle is the first to use large amounts of data to address this question about cycles in wage discrimination. Here’s the abstract:
Using CPS data from 1979-2009 we examine how cyclical downturns and industry-specific demand shocks affect wage differentials between white non-Hispanic males and women, Hispanics and African- Americans. Women’s and Hispanics’ relative earnings are harmed by negative shocks, while the earnings disadvantage of African-Americans may drop with negative shocks. Negative shocks also appear to increase the earnings disadvantage of bad-looking workers. A theory of job search suggests two opposite-signed mechanisms that affect these wage differentials. It suggests greater absolute effects among job-movers, which is verified using the longitudinal component of the CPS.
Here are some quick thoughts on President Obama’s jobs plan:
– It’s reasonably big, at about 3% of GDP.
– It’s reasonably front-loaded. Goldman Sachs says it will raise 2012 GDP by about 1.5%–before any multiplier effects. Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi thinks the effect on 2012 GDP will be about 2%. Expect more estimates in the 1-3% range for 2012; smaller for 2013.
– It’s reasonably well targeted. Unemployment insurance extensions will get spent. Infrastructure money gets spent and also builds stuff. as for the payroll tax: Who knows if it gets spent, but the point is to stimulate hiring, rather than spending.
– It’s reasonably well designed. The biggest problem with a payroll tax is that firms get it even for employees already on the books. But this time, the biggest payroll tax cut is only for firms raising their payrolls. This will yield a much bigger bang-for-each-buck. Early analyses have yet to realize how important this is.
My last weekend in D.C. provided a final chance to enjoy my favorite haunts. And so I found myself walking amongst the memorialized giants of U.S. history: Washington, Lincoln, and now, Martin Luther King. On I walked, through the FDR Memorial, where I stumbled across the chiseled message below. Sure, I had seen it before. But I had forgotten how beautiful it is. And with the President about to announce his new jobs package, and Congress set to (hopefully!) debate these measures, it seems well worth sharing my serendipitous moment with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A reminder, if you like, of why we care.
So the jobs numbers from August are out and they’re not pretty. Employers added no net new jobs last month, the first time that’s happened since February 1945. In early trading, the Dow is down some 200 points.
Thankfully, today is a heads day for Justin Wolfers in his Twitter experiment, which he’s been at for a month now (Follow him @JustinWolfers). As soon as the numbers hit the fan this morning, Wolfers posted some brief thoughts to Google+, which we share below:
The latest employment numbers have already caused plenty of consternation. But they are actually worse than you may realize.
Most attention focuses just on the headline number, which says that only 18,000 new jobs were created last month. But the employment report actually contains many indicators, which rarely line up perfectly. The problem is that this time they do.