Skip to main content

Economic Turbulence

Is a Volatile Economy Good for America?

Every day, in every sector of our economy, a business shuts down while another starts up, jobs are created while others are cut, and workers are hired while others are laid off. This constant flux, or turbulence, is a defining characteristic of our free market system, yet it mostly inspires angst about unemployment, loss of earnings, and the overall competitiveness of corporations. But is this endless cycle of fluctuation really so bad for America? Might something positive be going on in the economy as a result of it?

In this penetrating work, three esteemed economists seek to answer these questions by exploring the real impact of volatility on American workers and businesses alike. According to the authors, while any number of events--shifts in consumer demand, changes in technology, mergers and acquisitions, or increased competition--can contribute to economic turbulence, our economy as a whole is, by and large, stronger for it, because these processes of creation and destruction make it more flexible and adaptable. The authors also acknowledge and document the adverse consequences of this turbulence on different groups of workers and firms and discuss the resulting policy challenges. Basing their argument on an up-close look into the dealings and practices of five key industries—financial services, retail food services, trucking, semiconductors, and software—the authors demonstrate the positive effects of turbulence on career paths, employee earnings, and firm performance.

The first substantial attempt to disentangle and make clear the complexities of this phenomenon in the United States, Economic Turbulence will be viewed as a major achievement and the centerpiece of any discussion on the subject for years to come.

Read an excerpt.
A website for the book provides supplemental data and tables and other material.

212 pages | 25 line drawings, 12 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Economics and Business: Business--Business Economics and Management Studies, Business--Industry and Labor, Economics--Econometrics and Statistics, Economics--General Theory and Principles, Economics--International and Comparative


Economic Turbulence improves our understanding of the complexities of turbulence, the defining characteristic of the modern American economy. Providing evidence based on new data sources and interviews, it offers valuable insights into the impact of turbulence on firms’ performance and survival rates, and workers’ job ladders, career paths, and wages. The study’s data confirm that the obvious is often wrong. Turbulence, the authors show, has different effects on various groups of workers and industries. This is an essential book for all decision makers and policy makers operating within our volatile economy.”

Ray Marshall, former U.S. Secretary of Labor

“One of the central issues facing the American economy is the creative destruction of jobs. The authors of Economic Turbulence do a wonderful job of looking at the real data and demonstrating that there are in fact both winners and losers in our economy. Much of the outcome depends on the flexibility of the companies that employ our workers. The authors are to be commended for tackling this profoundly complex issue and providing readers with clear and thoughtful analysis.”

William W. Lewis, founding director of the McKinsey Global Institute and author of The Power of Productivity

“This book presents important new insights into the dynamics of the American labor market. It documents the consequences of the birth and death of firms on the wages and careers of workers. It examines the effectiveness of alternative personnel strategies by firms and search strategies by workers. A must-read for anyone interested in how the labor market actually works as opposed to popular but misleading journalistic depictions.”

James J. Heckman, Winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Economics

"A reasoned and comprehensive deconstruciton of the complexities of economic turbulence."

Mitch Renkow | Journal of Regional Science

Table of Contents

1. Overview of the Book
2. Economic Turbulence: What, Who, and How Much?
3. The Industries
4. Firms, Their Workers, and Their Survival
5. Firm Turbulence and Job Ladders
6. Turbulence and Worker Career Paths
7. Economic Turbulence and Middle-Income Jobs
8. Conclusions and Implications for Policy
Appendix A: The Data
Appendix B: Chapter 4 Background
Appendix C: Chapters 5 and 6 Background
Appendix D: Chapter 7 Background


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press