ECON 17
Who Decides Your Pay? Winter 2023

Class Details

Most of us must work to earn a living. As a result, we are keenly aware of our pay. But who decides that pay, and how? Many analyses of the labor market have assumed it is perfectly competitive, with firms compelled to pay a prevailing market wage or salary. Recent evidence has demonstrated this assumption is not just wrong, but badly so. Firms have considerable power to set the wages of their employees. This course studies the forces that give firms wage-setting power and the effects of such power on labor market outcomes. It will also address the question of what workers can do to limit employer power. Eric Posner’s How Antitrust Failed Workers and Alan Manning’s Monopsony in Motion will be the primary books. Additional readings will include policy documents from the US Department of Justice, the US Treasury, and think tanks, plus John Kenneth Galbraith on countervailing power. Class meetings (6hr/week) will focus primarily on discussion, but some will be dedicated to statistical exploration of real labor market data. Out-of-class activities will include reading, simple data analysis, and an interview. The course will conclude with groups presenting case studies of employer wage-setting power or employee efforts to reduce that power (e.g. unionization drives).
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 10
Expected: NA
Class#: 1108
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Final project or presentation
Prerequisites: ECON 110
Enrollment Preferences: Majors
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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