cover image You’re Paid What You’re Worth: And Other Myths of the Modern Economy

You’re Paid What You’re Worth: And Other Myths of the Modern Economy

Jake Rosenfeld. Belknap, $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-674-91659-3

Washington University sociology professor Rosenfeld (What Unions No Longer Do) debunks contemporary myths about work and wages in this illuminating account. Though most workers believe they’re paid for their performance and would prefer to keep their salaries private, Rosenfeld writes, the reality is that individual performance is extremely difficult to measure and that wages increase, and become more equitable, when workers’ compensation is made public. Rosenfeld also documents how increased focus on corporate shareholders in recent decades has exacerbated income inequality, and reveals that noncompete clauses, once restricted to highly competitive industries, covered 20% of American workers in 2014, including fast food employees, journalists, and hair stylists. High-paying blue-collar jobs may be gone for good, according to Rosenfeld, who cites evidence that U.S. manufacturing production has expanded by 80% since the 1980s, while “employment in goods-producing jobs... has fallen substantially.” Rosenfeld’s solutions include raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions and national pay standards (he cites Australia’s “Modern Awards” system as a model), and reducing the share of corporate revenue that goes to CEOs and shareholders. The likelihood of achieving those goals remains somewhat murky, but Rosenfeld’s wide-ranging research and lucid prose impress. The result is a well-informed and lay-friendly reconsideration of economic shibboleths. (Jan.)