Job Quality in the United States
America has undergone marked transformations in the past four decades. Globalization and deregulation have increased the amount of competition faced by American companies, provided greater opportunities for them to outsource work to lower-wage countries, and opened up new sources of workers through immigration. The growth of a “new economy” characterized by more knowledge-intensive work has been accompanied by the accelerated pace of technological innovation and the continued expansion of service industries as the principal sources of jobs. Political policies such as the replacement of welfare by workfare programs in the 1990s have made it essential for people to participate in paid employment at the same time that jobs have become more precarious. The labor force has become more diverse, with marked increases in the number of women, nonwhite, older, and immigrant workers, and growing divides between people with different amounts of education. Ideological changes have supported these structural changes, with shifts toward greater individualism and personal accountability for work and life replacing notions of collective responsibility. These social, political, and economic forces have radically transformed the nature of employment relations and work in America.1 They have led to pervasive job insecurity, the growth of dual-earner families, and 24/7 work schedules for many workers. More opportunities for entrepreneurship and good jobs have arisen for some, while others still only have access to low-wage and often dead-end jobs. These changes in work have, in turn, magniﬁed social problems such as poverty, workfamily conﬂicts, political polarization, and disparities by race, ethnicity, and gender. The growing gap between “good” and “bad” jobs represents a dark side to the booming American economy of the 1980s and 1990s; it has contributed to a crisis for the middle class in the United States in the past decade....