Areas of expertise
Education • Labor markets • Income distribution and poverty • Industrial relations • Technology and productivity • Wages • Unions and collective bargaining
Lawrence Mishel, a nationally recognized economist, is president of the Economic Policy Institute, a role he assumed in 2002. Mishel first joined EPI in 1987 as research director. In the more than two decades he has been with EPI, Mishel has helped build it into the nation’s premier research organization focused on U.S. living standards and labor markets.
Mishel has co-authored all 12 editions of The State of Working America, a book that former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich says “remains unrivaled as the most-trusted source for a comprehensive understanding of how working Americans and their families are faring in today’s economy.” The State of Working America has been an invaluable resource in newsrooms, classrooms, and halls of power since 1988.
Mishel’s primary research interests include labor markets and education. He has written extensively on wage and job quality trends in the United States. He co-edited a research volume on emerging labor market institutions for the National Bureau of Economic Research. His 1988 research on manufacturing data led the U.S. Commerce Department to revise the way it measures U.S. manufacturing output. This new measure helped accurately document the long decline in U.S. manufacturing, a trend that is now widely understood.
Mishel leads EPI’s education research program. He has written extensively on charter schools, teacher pay, and high school graduation rates. His research with Joydeep Roy has shown that high school graduation rates are significantly higher than the rates that are often cited by education analysts. This work has enabled policymakers to more accurately assess the state of U.S. public education.
Mishel has testified before Congress on the importance of promoting policies that reduce inequality, generate jobs, improve the lives of American workers and their families, and strengthen the middle class. He also serves frequently as a commentator in print, broadcast, and online media.
Prior to joining EPI, Mishel held a number of research roles, including a fellowship at the U.S. Department of Labor. He also served as a faculty member at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Mishel also served as an economist for several unions, including the Auto Workers, Steelworkers, AFSCME, and the Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO. Mishel holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Originally from Philadelphia, he has four children and one grandson and lives with his wife and two dogs in Washington, D.C.
Ph.D., Economics, University of Wisconsin at Madison
M.A., Economics, American University
B.S., Pennsylvania State University
Search publications by Lawrence Mishel
In the debate over the relationship between economy-wide productivity and typical workers’ pay the numbers are clear: typical workers’ pay hasn’t come close to keeping up with productivity, and a wide gap between the two has developed.
We learned from the Census Bureau this morning that the decent employment growth in 2014 yielded no improvements in wages and, not surprisingly, no improvement in the median incomes of working-age households or drop in the number of people living in poverty.
The proposed rule will restore or strengthen overtime protections for millions of salaried workers, protections that have been eroded by decades of bureaucratic hostility and neglect.
The data series and methods we use to construct our graph of the growing gap between productivity and typical worker pay best capture how income generated in an average hour of work in the U.S. economy has not
trickled down to raise hourly pay for typical workers.
If the overtime salary threshold is raised to $50,440, then 6.7 million millennials, or 4.7 million more than are currently covered, would directly benefit from the proposed salary threshold, with most of them gaining new rights to overtime eligibility.
I am heartened that the SEC is finally adopting its CEO pay ratio disclosure rule.
EPI has been studying CEO pay and worker pay for more than 20 years.
This technical memo explains the methodology we used to estimate the number of workers affected by the Department of Labor’s proposed update to the overtime salary threshold.
An estimated 13.5 million workers would directly benefit from the Department of Labor’s proposal to raise the salary threshold under which salaried workers are eligible for overtime pay regardless of their duties.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to pay covered workers 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for each hour of work per week beyond 40 hours.
Matt Yglesias is an insightful writer, but his recent article, “Hillary Clinton’s favorite chart is pretty misleading” is itself very misleading.
Between 2007 and 2014 the median worker’s wages and compensation declined, respectively, by 4.0 and 1.9 percent. Among the bottom 40 percent of workers there was an even greater decline in compensation than there was in wages, indicating that including benefits as well as wages in an analysis results in a more adverse trends
Hillary Clinton appropriately defines her economic policy goal as raising “incomes for hardworking Americans so they can afford a middle-class life” rather than “hitting some arbitrary growth target untethered to people’s lives and livelihoods.”
Glenn Hubbard, a leading conservative economist and key adviser to GOP candidate Jeb Bush, does not seem to believe there is a wage stagnation problem.
Over the last several decades, inflation-adjusted CEO compensation increased from $1.5 million in 1978 to $16.3 million in 2014
, or 997 percent, a rise almost double stock market growth.
The reason to focus on the CEO pay of the largest firms is that they employ a large number of workers, are the leaders of the business community, and set the standards for pay in the executive pay market and probably in the nonprofit sector as well (e.g., hospitals, universities).
The chief executive officers of America’s largest firms earn three times more than they did 20 years ago and at least 10 times more than 30 years ago, big gains even relative to other very-high-wage earners.
I have been engaged in policy deliberations around trade adjustment for thirty-seven years. What was being considered in Congress today was a shell of the initial program and funded by cutting Medicare to boot.
A new paper, Firming up Inequality,
has been receiving substantial attention in the media for its claim that wage inequality is not occurring within firms but only occurs between firms. Though the authors present valuable new data, which offers the possibility of great insights, their current analysis does not disprove that executive pay has fueled top 1 percent income growth. In fact, the study neither examines nor rebuts claims about executive pay.
EPI president Larry Mishel told NPR’s Scott Horsley of Morning Edition that “We have created lots of income, lots of output, lots of wealth over the last three decades, but the problem is it has not accrued to the vast majority.”
Watch the video
The current robot story is that employers are increasingly using machinery, computers or software instead of workers. Perhaps surprisingly to some, the data on investments and productivity cast doubt on any accelerated robot activity: the growth of labor productivity, capital investment and, particularly, investment in information equipment and software has strongly decelerated
in the 2000s.
By every common benchmark, today's federal minimum wage is far below its 1968 value. Raising the federal minimum to $12.00 by 2020 would raise the purchasing power of the minimum wage modestly relative to where it was five decades ago.
This piece originally ran in The American Prospect.
We think of America as the land of opportunity, but the United States actually has low rates of upward mobility relative to other advanced nations, and there has been no improvement in decades.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill.
The annual federal budget debate typically doesn’t excite many folks outside the Washington beltway.
Wage stagnation is not inevitable. It is the direct result of public policy choices on behalf of those with the most power and wealth that have suppressed wage growth for the vast majority in recent decades. Thus, because wage stagnation was caused by policy, it can be alleviated by policy.
Hidden amid all the discussion of when falling unemployment will lead to rising wages are the expectations shared in the media and among economic analysts that we can only expect wages to rise when unemployment is low.
EPI president Larry Mishel spoke with WHYY’s “Radio Times” on growing income inequality in the United States.
Watch the video
EPI President Lawrence Mishel testified before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Wednesday, Feb 4,2015. In his testimony, Mishel said actions such as raising the minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020, strengthening collective bargaining, updating overtime rules, and ending forced arbitration would accelerate wage growth.
It is encouraging that there is now widespread agreement across the political spectrum that the key economic challenge is middle-class income stagnation.
A pattern that Colin Gordon has presented in past years (2013, 2012) is that union membership density fell as the share of income going to the top 10 percent escalated.
On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address, which gives him an opportunity to lay out his priorities and set an agenda for the year ahead.