The William G. Bowen Book Award

Announcing the 2019 and 2020  William G. Bowen Book Award Recipients

Background: in black and white-women working in a 1950s factory . Foreground balc text: Emily Guendelsberger, author of On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How it Drives America Insane
Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Anne Case and Angus Deaton, authors of Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism


Cover of book "On the Clock: What Low Wage Work Did to me and How it Drives America Insane"

On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane by Emily Guendelsberger

Guendelsberger, a journalist, sets out to examine the day-to-day experience of low-wage work in America in the mid-2010’s by working at four major companies at different times for one to two months each: Amazon, McDonalds, Convergys, and AT&T. Aptly titled “On the Clock,” Guendelsberger’s book exposes the failures of a system that seeks to maximize productivity during every second of workers’ time in highly routinized jobs with high turnover. Through technologies in the fast food industry that calculate a target order assembly time and monitor equipment tools, systems can be set to harass and trigger worker’s stress response. Algorithmic scheduling in retail chains, which uses a business’s most recent data to predict the minimum number of workers needed, overworks low-wage workers during their minimally staffed shift, and inadvertently affects their families, as workers are unable to know their work schedules often more than one day in advance. In warehouse fulfillment centers, GPS-enabled scanners track workers' movements while informing how many seconds remain to complete the task at hand. Through recorded notes of direct communications with her bosses and coworkers, Guendelsberger reveals this dehumanizing slice of the American labor market that, according to a 2013 study from Oxford University, employs about 47 percent of the US workforce.

Guendelsberger, Emily. On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2019.

—Annotation by Charissa O. Jefferson, Labor Economics Librarian


Cover of book "Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

 Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Case and Deaton create the label “Deaths of Despair” to capture the recent increases in deaths from suicide, drugs, and alcohol among middle-aged white Americans, particularly working-class white males who do not have a four-year degree. They describe how the lack of robust health insurance, capitalist structures, loss of power, warped incentives for pharmaceutical companies, and changes in economic structures are affecting this demographic in the last few years. They document the steady decline in access to opportunities, perceptions of loss of white privilege, and changes in social norms surrounding work, marriage, and family.

Combining data from governmental sources with qualitative interviews, the authors paint a powerful picture of how the three different causes of death are both interconnected as well as linked to mental health concerns that are not receiving sufficient support. They draw attention to rapid increases in specific geographic regions and discuss the effects of chronic pain, addiction, and social safety networks. By connecting individual stories with international datasets, the authors reveal connections across different health concerns and make an argument for interventions that are holistic and coherent.

Case, Anne, and Angus Deaton. Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020.

—Annotation by Anu Vedantham, Assistant University Librarian for Research Services

About William G. Bowen and the Annual Book Award

William G. Bowen's ties with Princeton and the Industrial Relations Section began in 1955, when he enrolled as a graduate student in economics.  Bowen joined the faculty at Princeton in 1958, upon completion of his Ph.D.  After a decade of teaching and advising, in 1967 Bowen became the second Provost of Princeton University.  He remained Provost until his appointment as the 17th President of Princeton University in 1972, a position he held for 16 years, when he was appointed President of the Mellon Foundation.

William Bowen has spent a life as a scholar and academic administrator, with remarkable achievements in both areas, often at the same time.  His scholarship, which ranges over a wide variety of subjects, is always empirically informed, solidly grounded in common sense, and directly aimed at issues of extraordinary importance for public policy.

In recognition of William Bowen's contribution to the fields of Labor Economics, Industrial Relations, and Human Resources and his long association with the Industrial Relations Section, the Section has established an annual award in his name. This award is presented to the book making the most important contribution toward understanding public policy related to industrial relations and the operation of labor markets.

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