Labor Economics
Penn State University

Reading List

The blocks below represent topics that are covered in the course each week along with required readings that are assigned to those topics. Students in the course will read two books during the course (New Geography of Jobs and We Wanted Workers), so those chapters may not correspond directly with the topics. The extra reading tends to be more closely tied with class material or serves as a preview for the upcoming lesson.

Students in the class are given PDFs of the reading posted in the course management system. Below, Amazon links to the book are included.

Econ 315 Course Site
  • 01/


    Graber, D. (2018). Preface. In: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Harford, T. (2017. Robots. In: Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy. New York: Riverhead Books

  • 02/

    Labor Force Characteristics

    Cairo, A. (2019). How Charts Work. In: How Charts Lie. WW Norton Co. New York.

    New Geography of Jobs: American Rust

  • 03/

    Automation & Transformation of the US Economy

    Schlosser, E. (2001). Behind the Counter: throughput. in: Fast Food Nation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    Bessen, J. (2016, January 19). "The Automation Paradox." The Atlantic.

  • 04/

    Minimum Wage & Other Wage Policies

    Lowrey, A. (2018). Crummy Jobs. In: Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World. New York: Crown Publishing.

    Harford, T. (2017. The Welfare State. In: Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy. New York: Riverhead Books

  • 05/

    Time Allocation in the US Labor Force

    New Geography of Jobs: Smart Labor: Microchips, Movies, and Multipliers 

    New Geography of Jobs: The Great Divergence

  • 06/

    Government Assistance & Universal Basic Income

    New Geography of Jobs: Forces of Attraction

    New Geography of Jobs: The Inequality of Mobility and Cost of Living

  • 07/

    Causes of Wage Differentials

    New Geography of Jobs: Poverty Traps and Sexy Cities

    New Geography of Jobs: The New "Human Capital"

  • 08/

    Immigration & The Decision to Move

    We Wanted Workers: Introduction


    We Wanted Workers: Lennon's Utopia

    We Wanted Workers: How We Got Here

  • 09/

    Monopsony Power

    We Wanted Workers: The Self-Selection of Immigrants

    We Wanted Workers: Economic Assimilation

    We Wanted Workers: The Melting Pot

  • 10/

    Training, Education, & Human Capital

    Stephens-Davidowitz, S. (2017).  All the World's a Lab. in: Everybody Lies.

    Levitt, S. & Dubner, S. (2014). "What do King Solomon and David Lee Roth have in common?" In: Think Like a Freak, p. 149 - 161.

  • 11/

    Unions & Collective Bargaining

    Schlosser, E. (2001). Behind the Counter: detecting lies. in: Fast Food Nation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    Vanek Smith, S. and C. Garcia (February 13, 2019) "The Strike That Changed U.S. Labor," NPR Planet Money.

    Simon, J. and K. Malone (December 18, 2019) "When Reagan Broke the Unions," NPR Planet Money.

  • 13/

    Labor Market Discrimination

    Acho, E. (2020). What Do You See When You See Me? Implicit Bias. In: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.


    Brody, L.. (2017, February 7). "The Big Salary Reveal: 12 Real People Discover What the Pay Gap Looks Like." Glamour.

    Vanek Smith, S. and C. Garcia (April 29, 2019). "Where The Gender Pay Gap Is Widest .NPR Market Place.

  • 14/

    Income & Wealth Inequality

    We Wanted Workers: The Labor Market Impact

    We Wanted Workers: The Economic Benefits

    We Wanted Workers: The Fiscal Impact