Methods of Policy Analysis - The Future of Work


Units: 12


After decades of slow wage growth and rising inequality, many American workers now fear an epidemic of joblessness as new technologies increasingly replace human labor. Is this likely to occur? How will emerging technologies reshape the U.S. labor market? How important is the “gig economy,” and how big might it become? What can policy makers do to ensure that the growth of the American economy is more inclusive and equitable?


The curriculum of 90-745 has been rewritten to help Heinz students (and other interested CMU students) think seriously and rigorously about the future of work in the 21st century American economy. The course will place current concerns in the broader context of the major structural shifts in the U.S. labor market over the past several decades. Drawing upon the most recent quantitative analyses, the course will show that technological change has contributed to increasingly unequal outcomes in the U.S. labor market for decades, and that this trend is likely to continue as a new wave of technological change unfolds. The course will also consider the degree to which globalization, immigration, rising monopoly power, declining union strength, minimum wage laws, and discrimination based on race and gender have contributed to rising inequality in U.S. incomes. The course will draw upon frontier research to identify old and new policy ideas that could help make economic growth more inclusive, and it will bring into the classroom policy entrepreneurs who are making a real difference. The course instructor, Professor Lee Branstetter, is a globally recognized expert on the economics of innovation and technological change. He leads the Future of Work research initiative within Carnegie Mellon’s Block Center for Technology and Society. In 2011-2012, Professor Branstetter served on the staff of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.


Students enrolling in this course will have two options for grading and evaluation.  Under the first option, grades will be based on a midterm, final exam, and a series of short policy essays.  Under the second option, grades will be primarily based on a systems synthesis project linked to the course, through which students will be able to undertake original policy analysis for an external client on a project related to the themes of the course.  Students should check the provisional syllabus for potential systems projects.  The set of affiliated systems projects should be finalized by the mid-November course registration date.