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Using Illustrations from American Novels to Teach about Labor Markets

Listed author(s):
  • Michelle Albert Vachris
  • Cecil E. Bohanon

This article illustrates how literature can bring models to life in undergraduate courses on labor market economics. The authors argue that economics instructors and students can benefit from even small doses of literature. The authors examine excerpts from five American novels: Sister Carrie by Theodore Drieser (1900/2005); The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939/1967); McTeague: A Story of San Francisco by Frank Norris (1899/2006); Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1852/2003); and Seraph on the Suwanee by Zora Neale Hurston (1948). Examples from these works cover five labor market themes: (1) reservation wages and the supply of labor, (2) surplus labor and low wages, (3) demand for labor and marginal productivity, (4) the economic model of discrimination, and (5) search versus random matching in labor markets (a critique of neoclassical labor theory).

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal The Journal of Economic Education.

Volume (Year): 43 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 72-82

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:43:y:2012:i:1:p:72-82
DOI: 10.1080/00220485.2012.636712
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