The Richard A. Lester Award for the Outstanding Book in Industrial Relations and Labor Economics

John H. Pencavel awarded the 2018 Richard A. Lester Book Award


Pencavel’s Diminishing returns at work is written for academic economists, but may also be relevant to an interdisciplinary audience of researchers, policymakers, and employers interested in understanding the relationship between hours worked, labor markets, and productivity in the United States and the United Kingdom over the past two centuries. The author compares different theoretical frameworks for incorporating hours worked into the production function and reviews empirical economic historical analyses of working hours across different industries in the two countries. Included in the book are new results from the author’s re-evaluation of his past empirical analysis of the plywood industry, using an alternative theoretical framework that explains diminishing returns of long working hours by distinguishing between nominal and effective hours worked.

Pencavel, John H. Diminishing returns at work: the consequences of long working hours. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2018.  272 p. HD5124 .P46 2018. Cloth, $39.95. ISBN: 978-0-190-87616-6



The Industrial Relations Section has both an annual book award (see below) and a fellowship named in honor of Richard A. Lester.

Richard A. Lester's ties with Princeton and the Industrial Relations Section began in 1929, when he enrolled as a graduate student in economics. Lester served as an instructor at Princeton (1934-38), and returned as Associate Professor and Research Associate of the Industrial Relations Section in 1945. He served as Chairman of the Economics Department from 1948 to 1955 and from 1961 to 1968, and as Dean of the Faculty from 1968 to 1973. Lester was one of the founders of the Industrial Relations Research Association and was elected its president in 1956. He served in Washington in various capacities between 1940 and 1944, and was vice-chairman of the President's Commission on the Status of Women from 1961 to 1963.

In recognition of Richard Lester's contribution to the fields of Labor Economics and Industrial Relations and his many years of service to the Industrial Relations Section, the Section has established in his name an annual award for the outstanding book in Industrial Relations and Labor Economics. The award is presented to the book making the most original and important contribution toward understanding the problems of industrial relations, and the evolution of labor markets.

Nominations from authors or publishers are not solicited nor accepted; this is an independent selection process.



Amy Goldstein, Janesville: An American Story

Steve Viscelli, The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream

Anthony  B. Atkinson, Inequality: What Can Be Done?

John D. Skrentny, After Civil Rights: Racial Realism in the New American Workplace

Adia Harvey Wingfield, No More Invisible Man: Race and Gender in Men's Work

Kevin Hallock, Why People Earn What They Earn and What You Can Do Now to Make More.

Joseph A. McCartin, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Stike that Changed America.

Stephen A. Wandner, Solving the Reemployment Puzzle: From Research to Policy

Not awarded

Claudia D. Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, The Race between Education and Technology

Greg J. Duncan, Aletha C. Huston, and Thomas S. Weisner, Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and their Children.

Nancy MacLean, Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace.

John B. Knight and Lina Song, Towards a Labour Market in China.

John W. Budd, Employment with a Human Face: Balancing Efficiency, Equity and Voice.

Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, At Home and Abroad: U.S. Labor Market Performance in International Perspective.

Annette Bernhardt, Martina Morris, Mark S. Handcock and Marc A. Scott, Divergent Paths: Economic Mobility in the New American Labor Market.

Price Van Meter Fishback and Shawn Everett Kantor, A Prelude to the Welfare State: The Origins of Workers' Compensation.

Timothy J. Minchin, Hiring the Black Worker: The Racial Integration of the Southern Textile Industry, 1960-1980

Rebecca M. Blank, It Takes a Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty.

Phillip L. Martin, Promises to Keep: Collective Bargaining in California Agriculture.

David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald, The Wage Curve.

Douglas L. Kruse, Profit Sharing: Does It Make a Difference? The Productivity and Stability Effects of Employee Profit-sharing Plans.

Bruce E. Kaufman, The Origins and Evolution of the Field of Industrial Relations in the United States.

John H. Pencavel, Labor Markets Under Trade Unionism: Employment, Wages and Hours.

Claudia D. Goldin, Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women.

William G. Bowen and Julie Ann Sosa, Prospects for Faculty in the Arts and Sciences: A Study of Factors Affecting Supply and Demand, 1987 to 2012.

John P. Hoerr, And the wolf Finally Came: The Decline of the American Steel Industry.