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Shaping Knowledge about American Labor: External Advising at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Twentieth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 May 2010

Thomas A. Stapleford*
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame

Argument

Created in 1884, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been the major federal source for data in the United States on labor-related topics such as prices, unemployment, compensation, productivity, and family expenditures. This essay traces the development and transformation of formal and informal consulting relationships between the BLS and external groups (including academic social scientists, unions, businesses, and other government entities) over the twentieth century. Though such a history cannot, of course, provide a comprehensive analysis of how political values have shaped the construction of labor statistics during this period, I argue that it can nevertheless provide important insights into the political context for the construction of knowledge about American workers and their living and working conditions.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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