“Square Deal” or Raw Deal? Market Compensation for Workplace Disamenities, 1884—1903

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26 Scopus citations


Early twentieth-century social reformers claimed that public insurance was necessary because employers ignored the financial needs of their unemployed, injured, or ill workers. Reformers dismissed the idea that competition in the labor market would boost the wages of workers who faced greater chances of job-related financial distress. This article reports a test of the compensating-wage-difference hypothesis on wage samples of men, women, and children from 1884 to 1903. We found mixed support for the reformers’ claims: unemployment risk tended to be fully compensated; accident risk was only partially compensated; and occupational illness went unremunerated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)826-848
Number of pages23
JournalThe Journal of Economic History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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