We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Staircases and Treadmills

Labor Market Intermediaries and Economic Opportunity in a Changing Economy

Chris Benner, Laura Leete, Manuel Pastor

Publication Year: 2007

Staircases or Treadmills? is the first comprehensive study documenting the prevalence of all types of labor market intermediaries and investigating how these intermediaries affect workers’ employment opportunities. Benner, Leete, and Pastor draw on years of research in two distinct regional labor markets—“old economy” Milwaukee and “new economy” Silicon Valley—including a first-of-its-kind random survey of the prevalence and impacts of intermediaries, and a wide range of interviews with intermediary agencies’ staff and clients. One of the main obstacles that disadvantaged workers face is that social networks of families and friends are less effective in connecting job-seekers to stable, quality employment. Intermediaries often serve as a substitute method for finding a job.  Which substitute is chosen, however, matters: The authors find that the most effective organizations—including many unions, community colleges, and local non-profits—actively foster contacts between workers and employers, tend to make long-term investments in training for career development, and seek to transform as well as satisfy market demands. But without effective social networks to help workers locate the best intermediaries, most rely on private temporary agencies and other organizations that offer fewer services and, statistical analysis shows, often channel their participants into jobs with low wages and few benefits. Staircases or Treadmills? suggests that, to become more effective, intermediary organizations of all types need to focus more on training workers, teaching networking skills, and fostering contact between workers and employers in the same industries. A generation ago, rising living standards were broadly distributed and coupled with relatively secure employment. Today, many Americans fear that heightened job insecurity is overshadowing the benefits of dynamic economic growth. Staircases or Treadmills? is a stimulating guide to how private and public job-matching institutions can empower disadvantaged workers to share in economic progress.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (29.7 KB)
pp. iii


pdf iconDownload PDF (30.7 KB)
pp. iv


pdf iconDownload PDF (27.3 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more

About the Authors

pdf iconDownload PDF (37.8 KB)
pp. vii

CHRIS BENNER is an assistant professor of geography at the Pennsylvania State University...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (61.9 KB)
pp. ix-xiii

The idea for the research project that forms the basis of this book first emerged out of the efforts of Working Partnerships USA (WPUSA) in Silicon Valley, and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) in Wisconsin. Both organizations have experimented with building labor market intermediaries as part of a...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (36.3 KB)
pp. xv-xvii

The research project that forms the basis of this book emerged out of the policy and advocacy efforts of Working Partnerships USA in San Jose, California, and the Center on Wisconsin Strategy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Both organizations are “think-and-do tanks” dedicated to conducting...

read more

Chapter One

pdf iconDownload PDF (168.6 KB)
pp. 1-23

Many Americans work in low-wage jobs at some point in their lives. For many of them, low-paid work is only a temporary situation and they are able to move over time to higher-paid positions with better career opportunities. A substantial number of people, however, remain in low-paid jobs for long periods of...

read more

Chapter Two

pdf iconDownload PDF (227.1 KB)
pp. 24-57

Most workers, especially those in the lower tiers of the labor market, search for employment opportunities within the area accessible by daily commute. Similarly, employers search for employees to fill job openings primarily from within regional labor markets. Clearly there are exceptions to this, at both the...

read more

Chapter Three

pdf iconDownload PDF (265.0 KB)
pp. 58-97

The central question that drove the research for this book was this: how do labor market intermediaries affect labor market outcomes for disadvantaged workers? Answering this question requires knowing both how prevalent LMIs are in the labor market and how they affect labor market processes. To understand how...

read more

Chapter Four

pdf iconDownload PDF (206.7 KB)
pp. 98-124

To date, there has been little comprehensive work quantifying the incidence and nature of intermediary use in the U.S. economy. There have been case studies of certain sorts of LMIs, although most of them simply highlight “best practices” and few try to profile the average experience, as we did in the previous...

read more

Chapter Five

pdf iconDownload PDF (352.3 KB)
pp. 125-170

In the previous chapter, we reviewed data from the Survey of Labor Market Intermediary Use to examine the nature of LMI use by workers in two regions, and we considered the differential experience of workers who are disadvantaged by education, income, or race. Here we give further consideration to the...

read more

Chapter Six

pdf iconDownload PDF (314.5 KB)
pp. 171-222

Many workers solve the dual problem of job-seeking—that is, how to collect information about jobs and how to signal their reliability to employers through referrals—without using formal intermediaries. One could, for example, seek employment possibilities via newspaper classified ads, the Internet, and other...

read more

Chapter Seven

pdf iconDownload PDF (118.8 KB)
pp. 223-236

When the planning for this research project began in the late 1990s, the term “labor market intermediary” was nearly unknown. Indeed, a full-text search of nearly four thousand scholarly journals indexed by ProQuest reveals only ten articles from 1987 to 1996 that mention the term. Though still hardly a household term...


pdf iconDownload PDF (179.9 KB)
pp. 237-258


pdf iconDownload PDF (94.5 KB)
pp. 259-269


pdf iconDownload PDF (98.6 KB)
pp. 271-280


pdf iconDownload PDF (147.3 KB)
pp. 281-290

E-ISBN-13: 9781610440431
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871541697
Print-ISBN-10: 0871541696

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2007