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Can Businesses Boost Upward Mobility?

American Enterprise Institute

March 15, 2023

Event Summary

On March 15, AEI and the Brookings Institution convened a panel of labor economists and experts to discuss the role businesses play in advancing upward mobility for workers. AEI’s Brent Orrell moderated the discussion among the panelists.

Harry Holzer of Georgetown University spoke first about the economics of good and bad jobs and how employers conceptualize labor costs and wages. Dr. Holzer discussed the importance “high-road employers” place on job training and other investments to drive worker productivity.

Matt Sigelman of the Burning Glass Institute spoke next and presented on the American Opportunity Index—a new study by the Burning Glass Institute that explores worker outcomes across US companies. Mr. Sigelman explained how the index ranks US companies based on the opportunities they offer to workers.

Molly Kinder of Brookings considered the question of whether companies are providing a pathway to sufficiently good jobs. She discussed the nexus of wage growth and professional growth and how they correspond in the US labor market.

AEI’s Michael Strain spoke last and shared an optimistic view of wage growth and upward mobility in the low-wage labor market and how employers contribute to mobility.

—John Towey

Event Description

When it comes to moving up the career and pay ladders, picking the right company is more important than some might think. Evidence is growing that the company you work for matters for your wages and longer-term economic prospects. What evidence do we have that where you work matters? Why do some companies invest more in workers than other companies do? Is there a role for public policy to encourage businesses to become “high-road” employers?

Join AEI and the Brookings Institution for a joint event on how American businesses generate economic opportunity for workers and how effective talent management produces competitive benefits in the labor market—including a discussion of the new American Opportunity Index.