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Avoid the Hustle


Category: Sociology



* Lawrence Mishel et. al., The State of Working America: 12th edition.

Focus on the items/Tables and Figures stressed in the reading guide, and read the text surrounding those Tables and Figures in order to understand the Tables/figures.

Mishel. Chapter 1.

• What does Mishel mean by a “lost decade” of wage and income growth for most American families. What does he think is the main cause of this?
• What has happened to Income inequality in the US over the last few decades?
• How does this pattern contrasts with the postwar period to 1970s?
• What difference does it make if we look at a comprehensive measure of income that includes benefits from employers and government transfers?
• How does the current economic picture for blacks and Hispanics compare to that for non-Hispanic whites?
• Look at Fig 1A , Table 1.1 ,Figure 1F, .Figure 1G, Fig 1H, Fig 1I, Fig 1J , Fig 1K, Table 1.2 , Fig 1L , Table 1.3, Fig 1O and 1P

Over the last hundred years, experts and others have pondered the question of how to organize the work process so that management can obtain efficient production from employees. In this section we examine a variety of suggested solutions including (a) Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management”, (b) the “human relations” school, (c) the management techniques associated with the Japanese (“just-in-time production” and so on), (d) the “permanently Beta” ideas of the Internet age.

Mishel .Chapter 5 Jobs.
• What is “structural”—unemployment, and do we have it now?
• What is gross domestic product?
• What determines whether GDP growth translates into employment growth?
• What are today’s jobs like?
• What are good-producing industries and service-producing industries? Which is growing faster?
• What has happened to manufacturing jobs, health care jobs and professional and business services jobs over the last few decades?
• Look at Fig 5E. What are white collar, blue collar, and service occupations? Which are growing?
• What is a “good job” as defined in Fig 5F? What happened to the share of good jobs in the economy from 27.4% to 25%?
• What is the official definition of an unemployed person, and of the unemployment rate? Look at Fig 5G. What has happened to the unemployment rate in the last two decades?

Neff and Stark, “Permanently Beta: Responsive Organization in the Internet Era”
• What do N/S mean when they talk about organizations nowadays being “Permanently Beta.”?

Martin Wolf, “Enslave the Robots and Free the Poor.” Financial Times Feb 12, 2014.
What is Wolf’s solution to the new robot problem?
[movie extract Modern Times (Taylorism in the workplace)]

David Halle, America’s Working Man, xi-xviii.
• What are the two main senses in which better-paid blue-collar workers may be said to be “middle class?”
• What does Halle mean by “upper white collar,” “lower white collar,” and “blue collar?”
• Study Table 1

Statistical Abstract of the United States,

Table 616
• Upper-white-collar: Roughly what % of the total labor force are “Management, professional and related occupations” (i.e. what we call “upper white collar”)? Roughly what % of “management” occupations are female? Within the “professional and related” category, what are the largest groups?
• Lower White Collar. Roughly what % of the total labor force are “Sales and office occupations” (i.e. what we call lower-white-collar)? What proportion are female?
• Blue-collar. From the category “Natural resources, construction and maintenance occupations” subtract “Farming, fishing and forestry occupations.” Add what is left to “Production, transportation and material occupations”. This is the total blue-collar. Roughly what % of the total labor force are blue-collar?
• Agricultural. This is the category “farming, fishing and forestry” occupations. Roughly what % of the total labor force is agricultural?

Statistical Abstract of the United States:2009, US Census Bureau, Table # 598 (see separate table on class web site).
• Which are the fastest growing areas of employment?

David Halle and Andrew Beveridge, “Financial, Economic and Political Crises: From Sub-Prime Loans to Dodd-Frank, Occupy Wall Street, and Beyond,” chapter 5 in David Halle and Andrew Beveridge, eds., New York and Los Angeles: The Uncertain Future (forthcoming).
• Why did Southern California have so many sub-prime lenders?
• What are Credit Default Swaps?
• Why did Warren Buffet call them “weapons of mass destruction?”
• Why did the 2008 Lehman bankruptcy cause such problems for the banking sector?
• What were TARP funds, and who were they originally intended by Congress to help?
• What were some of the main solutions to the foreclosure problem suggested by Roubini and colleagues?

Mishel, Chapter 2, Income. [add material]


Table 695.
• Look at the distribution of money income of families (i.e. column 6, all rows)..

Table 699.
• Look at median (real) family income (first column) and how it has changed over time.

Table 694.
• Look at the six right hand columns (i.e. “percent distribution of aggregate income”). How has the share of aggregate income going to the top and to the bottom fifth changed over time? How about the share going to the top 5%?

Table 709.
• How has the % of people below the poverty level changed from 2000-2009?

(classwebKrugman) Paul Krugman, “Why Inequality Matters..” New York Times, December 16, 2013
What is the main problem with inequality according to Krugman?

Mishel, chapter 4 “Wages: The top, and very top, outpace the rest.” [add material]

Eduardo Porter, “A Relentless Widening of Disparity in Wealth,” New York Times, March 12, 2014. Why, according to economist Thomas Piketty, is economic inequality in countries like the United States, likely to get more pronounced?

David Halle and Frank Weyher, “New Developments in Class and Culture”
• Note that Halle and Weyher define class as “groupings based on one or more economic criteria.”
• What are the implications of this definition and how does it lead them to argue for the importance of the concept of “mixed class locations”?
• How do H/W define “culture?”
• What are some of the main developments in stock ownership (Table 1) and income mobility (Table 3)? What lessons can we learn from Table 3 about income mobility over time in the United States?

Mishel, chapter 6 “Wealth.”
Chapter 6 – Wealth
• How do the authors define “wealth?”
• How does wealth vary by race and ethnicity? (Whites, blacks and Hispanics).
• Roughly what proportion of households hold any stocks including those held indirectly through retirement accounts and pension funds in 2010?
• Why do the authors argue that housing equity is a far more important source of wealth for most households than stocks?
• Look at Fig 6A, Table 6.1, Table 6.2, Table 6.3, Figures 6B and C, and Fig 6D, Table 6.5, Table 6.6, Table 6.8, Figure 6F, Figure 6G. Why do the authors argue that “the supposed vast ’democratization of the stock market’ via investment vehicles such as IRAs and 401 (k)s never actually happened!’
• Look at Figure 6H, Fig 6J, 6K, Figure 6M.
• Look at Tables 6.10 and 6.12. Which three types of loans have increased over the period 1989-2010? Which type has increased fastest?
• Look at Figure 6Q. How does the median wealth per adult in the US compare with that of the 19 other advanced industrialized countries?
• Look at Table 6.17. Why does the picture looking at mean wealth differ from that when looking at the median?
Aldrich, Preface and Introduction.

• What were some of the main domestic issues that divided Obama and Romney in the 2012 election campaign?
• What are the demographic trends that seem to favor the Democrats?
• What, in the authors’ view, are the five basic characteristics of a “partisan realignment?”
• What are the three main approaches to studying how voters make up their minds about who to vote for?
• What is the 2012 National Election Study?

Chapter 1.
• Which are the previous positions/jobs that a successful presidential candidate is most likely to have held?
• What is “frontloading?
• What is the “new nomination system of 1972?”
• The Federal election Campaign Act of 1971 limited the power of “fat cats” to influence the choice of presidential candidate. What was the significance of this?
• What was the significance of Citizens United (2010?
Chapter 2.
• Which political party held the advantage in terms of states that had voted for that party in all of the last five elections except one?
• How good a campaign did Romney and Obama run?
• What was the significance of turnout?
• What was Romney’s remark about the “47%” and how significant was it for his campaign?

Chapter. 3
• [read just to end of “Pattern of Results” section]
• How close was the election result?
• How many “battleground states” did Obama win in 2012?
• How competitive have post war II elections been in the United States?

PricewaterhouseCoopers, “Top 10 Health Industry Issues in 2010.”
Figure 1.
• Roughly what % of Federal GDP is social security projected to constitute by 2082? Is that an increase compared to now?
• Roughly what % of Federal GDP is medicare and medicaid spending projected to constitute by 2082? Is that an increase compared to now?
• “The government is moving from volume-based payments to value-based purchasing (VBP)” (section 3). What does this mean?
Figure 8.
• Which of the possible alternate method of accessing health care is most popular?
• How are telecommunications corporations capitalizing on the growing use of their products in the healthcare industry? (section 5) Roughly what percentage of the hospitals surveyed by the New England Journal of Medicine have a comprehensive Electronic Health Record system? (section 3).

Stephen Brill, Time Magazine, March 4, 2013. “Why Medical Bills are Killing Us.”
• What is a major cause of rising health costs that Brill identifies?
• Why does he argue Medicare can help here?

Edward Luce, “RIP Obama’s stimulus.” Financial Times, Feb 24, 2014.

• What does Luce mean when he writes that “Rarely has the gap between the public’s perception and that of economists been greater” ?

*John Aldrich, Change and Continuity in the 2012 Elections, 5 “Social Forces and the Vote,”
Chap 5. Social Forces and the Vote.
• What was the New Deal coalition and why did it break down?
• Which groups were most likely to vote Democratic in 2012? Look especially at differences by race, gender, age, religion, and region.

Ch. 6. “Candidates, Issues and the Vote.”
• How important did “prospective issues” seem to be in 2012? (Note “prospective issues” are the voters’ perception of what the candidates are likely to do in regards to the issues that the electorate consider important).
• What were the most important problems as seen by the electorate in 2012 (see Table 6.3)?