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DiAlogue 06

A Conversation on Worker Benefits and Pay with Teresa Ghilarducci wisdom and experience can help other workers. Or seniority rights move them into easier physical jobs. Or they get the respect that older people need and deserve in the workplace. But the other possibility is that they’re being put in secondary jobs and in secondary, subordinated positions. Either is possible, as is some place in between. I’m looking at data and other evidence to decide whether older workers are being treated well or poorly and what function they have in the capitalist system.

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Teresa Ghilarducci Irene and Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of Economics and Policy Analysis

[00:00:00.00] Interviewer: Can you describe your general research interests as well as your intellectual trajectory? What are you doing now, and what do you want to do in the future? [00:00:20.24] Teresa Ghilarducci: I have always been interested in jobs, people, pay, and power. In economics that is called labor economics. I aim to change the core curriculum on how to understand wages, unemployment, and compensation— especially paid time off—pensions and health care. I am fascinated with the interaction of workplace employee benefit plans and the larger issues of the government’s responsibility in maintaining the economy and maintaining equity in the labor market. Those topics frame almost all of my research questions. Specifically, I am working on two problems. One is, Will the proletarianization of older workers lower the wages, hours, and working conditions of young and older workers through increased competition? The research question is, What happens when older people have to work more because they don’t have pensions? How will older people working more affect their own bargaining power and the bargaining power of others? The second problem is the way older workers are being used in the economy. We have a number of hunches about how they might be used. One might imagine a happy scenario in which older workers are used in places where their

[00:03:29.21] IN: NSSR has a tradition of interdisciplinary work and heterodox education. How does that apply to the way you teach or the way you conduct research? [00:03:45.11] TG: At other universities, scholars might view the problems of diminished pensions through the lens of individual choice and people not saving enough. But at The New School, we know that an individual is just one part of the explanation of how things work. We recognize that individuals are embedded in groups and groups are sorted into economic classes, and society and politics determine how much influence each class has. So I don’t place the blame for the lack of security for older people with the individual worker; I see the outcome as part of a set of power relationships. That’s very much in the New School tradition. The way NSSR’s traditions inform my teaching is that almost all my students are engaging with some public policy question. They see their work as having to be accountable to their society. I’m grateful to be in the academy, and I have a responsibility to the public for being given this very protected and responsible job. I pass that sentiment on to my students. [00:06:31.16] IN: How would you describe the way you work with graduate students? What would you want to say to prospective students to encourage the right students to want to come here and study?

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