Jake Rosenfeld Headshot

Jake Rosenfeld

Professor of Sociology, Washington University in St Louis

About Jake

Rosenfeld's research focuses on economic inequality, political participation, and changes in the ways in which workers get paid. Projects include an analysis of the broad consequences of labor union decline for American workers, a federally-funded project on pay transparency in U.S. firms, and a recent book exploring the determinants of pay in the contemporary U.S.


How the Decline of Unions Has Increased Racial Inequality

  • Meredith Kleykamp

Union Decline and Rising U.S. Wage Inequality

  • Bruce Western

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Quoted by Dylan Scott in "The Catch-22 for Labor Unions Enjoying Newfound Public Support," Vox, August 28, 2019.
Quoted by German Lopez in "I was Skeptical of Unions. Then I Joined One.," Vox, August 19, 2019.
Research discussed by Steven Greenhouse, in "The Return of the Strike," American Prospect, January 3, 2019.
Quoted by Noam Scheiber in "Missouri Voters Reject Anti-Union Law in a Victory for Labor," The New York Times, August 7, 2018.
Quoted by Liz Alderman in "Britain Aims to Close Gender Pay Gap with Transparency and Shame," The New York Times, April 4, 2018.
Quoted by Simon Montlake and Story Hinckley in "Surge in Teacher Activism Challenges GOP Austerity Mindset," The Christian Science Monitor, April 3, 2018.
Research discussed by Alana Semuels, in "Fewer Unions, Lower Pay for Everybody," The Atlantic, August 30, 2016.
Quoted by Neil Gross in "The Decline of Unions and the Rise of Trump," New York Times, August 12, 2016.
Quoted by Claire Cain Miller in "How to Bridge That Stubborn Pay Gap," New York Times, January 15, 2016.
Quoted by Adia Harvey Wingfield in "What Would It Take to Have an Economy Full of Good Jobs Again?," The Atlantic, October 30, 2015.
Guest on KCRW's To the Point, October 9, 2015.
Opinion: "The Rise and Fall of U.S. Labor Unions, and Why They Still Matter," Jake Rosenfeld, The Conversation, March 27, 2015.
Quoted by Brian Mahoney in "Scott Walker Takes On Unions Again," Politico, March 6, 2015.
Quoted by Nicholas Kristoff in "The High Price of Labour Union Decline," Straights Times, February 23, 2015.
Quoted by Nicholas Kristoff in "The Cost of a Decline in Unions," New York Times, February 19, 2015.
Quoted by Matt Phillips in "American Labor-Union Strikes are Almost Completely Extinct," Quartz, February 11, 2015.
Quoted by Robert McClendon in "New Orleans' Tourism Industry Booms but Income Inequality Remains Entrenched," October 28, 2014.
Opinion: "The Supreme Court Did Not Just Kill Public Sector Unions," Jake Rosenfeld, Politico, June 30, 2014.
Opinion: "Politics in Our Non-Union Age," Jake Rosenfeld, Talking Points Memo, March 20, 2014.
Opinion: "Government is Not the Answer: Why Public Sector Unions Won't Rescue Labor," Jake Rosenfeld, Talking Points Memo, March 17, 2014.
Guest on MSNBC, January 30, 2014.
Interviewed in "Vote on New Boeing Contract Highlights a Rift in the Machinists' Union," New York Times, January 2, 2014.
Interviewed in "Rejection Puts Future Home of Boeing Jet in Doubt," New York Times, November 15, 2013.
Opinion: "BART Workers, Striking an Unfamiliar Note," Jake Rosenfeld, Harvard Business Review Online, October 22, 2013.
Opinion: "Lost Unions and Lost Ground," Jake Rosenfeld (with Meredith Kleykamp), Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2013.
Research discussed by Aaron Corvin, in "Strictly Business: Decline of Unions Has Steep Price," The Columbian, September 8, 2013.
Research discussed by Steven Greenhouse, in "In New Wave of Walkouts, Fast-Food Strikers Gain Momentum," New York Times, August 29, 2013.
Research discussed by Emma Green, in "Are Shrinking Unions Making Workers Poorer?," The Atlantic, July 24, 2013.
Research discussed by Ashley Gross, in "Do Boeing Engineers Have Enough Leverage to Strike?," NPR, February 8, 2013.
Research discussed by "Unions and the Election: With Friends Like These...," The Economist, September 22, 2012.
Quoted by in "State of the Unions: What It Means for Workers - And Everyone Else," Knowledge@Wharton, May 9, 2012.
Opinion: "Workers of the World Divide," Jake Rosenfeld (with Bruce Western), Huffington Post, April 18, 2012.


"The Power of Transparency: Evidence from a British Workplace Survey" (with Patrick Denice). American Sociological Review 80, no. 5 (2015): 1045-1068.

Examines whether the dissemination of organizational financial information shifts power dynamics within workplaces, finding that employees whose managers share financial information earn about 8 to 12 percent more than employees whose managers keep such information secret.

"The Power of Transparency: Evidence from a British Workplace Survey" (with Patrick Denice). American Sociological Review 80, no. 5 (2015): 1045-1068.

Utilizes the 2004 and 2011 series of the British Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS) to test whether employees who report that their managers disclose workplace financial data earn more than otherwise similar workers not privy to such information. Suggests that disclosure results in higher wages for workers after adjusting for profit and productivity levels and a range of other workplace and worker characteristics.  Argues that disclosure is a key resource that reduces information asymmetries, thereby providing legitimacy to workers’ claims in wage bargaining.

"What Unions No Longer Do" (Harvard University Press, 2014).
Lays bare the broad repercussions of labor's collapse for the American economy and polity.
"Workers of the World Divide: The Decline of Labor and the Future of the Middle Class" (with Bruce Western). Foreign Affairs 91, no. 3 (2012): 88-99.
Describes the causes of organized labor's collapse in the U.S., and analyzes some of the major consequences of labor's decline for middle class Americans. Offers some plausible pathways for unions to respond to the challenges of the 21st Century.
"Organized Labor and Racial Wage Inequality in the United States" (with Meredith Kleykamp). American Journal of Sociology 117, no. 5 (2012): 1460-1502.
Examines the effect of labor union decline on economic inequality between African-Americans and whites. Finds that organized labor was vital in supporting African-American wages, and in reducing black-white wage gaps – especially among female workers.
"Unions, Norms, and the Rise in American Earnings Inequality" (with Bruce Western). American Sociological Review 76, no. 4 (2011): 513-37.
Provides a comprehensive investigation into union decline’s impact on wage inequality in the U.S. Finds that declining union membership explains a third of the recent rise in men’s wage inequality in the private sector – roughly equal to the impact of the growing wage gap between college and high school-educated workers.
"Economic Determinants of Voting in an Era of Union Decline" Social Science Quarterly 91, no. 2 (2010): 379-98.
Investigates how the changing composition of the labor movement affects who turns out to vote on election day. Finds that the effect of belonging to a union on voting is strongest for low-educated private sector workers – precisely the type of person fast disappearing from unions.
"Hispanics and Organized Labor in the United States, 1973-2007" (with Meredith Kleykamp). American Sociological Review 74, no. 6 (2009): 916-37.

Questions whether the recent, well-publicized unionization campaigns of Hispanics and Hispanic immigrants have helped revitalize the labor movement. We find that certain Hispanic subpopulations are more likely to belong to unions than non-immigrant whites. However, all populations’ unionization propensities have dropped precipitously in recent decades.