Edited by Ross B. Emmett
Chapter 9: Chicago and the Development of Twentieth-Century Labor Economics
Bruce E. Kaufman* Introduction The two universities in America that exercised the largest influence on the economic study of labor during the twentieth century are Chicago and Wisconsin. They are also the home of the two major rival paradigms that have vied back and forth over the years for dominance: the institutional/industrial relations approach (Wisconsin) and the neoclassical/price theory approach (Chicago). During the first half of the century the Wisconsin paradigm was ascendant and, even at Chicago, labor economics was heavily colored by this tradition; in the last half of the century, however, the pendulum swung decisively toward Chicago, and the neoclassical/price theory approach came to rule the field. In other places I have described the major principles and historical evolution of the Wisconsin School in labor (Kaufman 2004a, 2006); in this chapter I do the same for the Chicago School. By the end, one readily appreciates why Chicago has been the most influential force shaping modern labor economics and why economists at Chicago have won more Nobel prizes than any other university in the world. Labor at Chicago: the early years The study of labor as a separate field in American economics did not begin until the first decade of the twentieth century, although recognizable work in the field goes back at least to Richard Ely’s The Labor Movement in America (1886, see Kaufman 2004a). The beginning point of the field is marked by the publication of the first collegiate labor text, Labor Problems by Thomas Adams and Helen...
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