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71 ILR Rev.: J. Work & Pol'y 3 (2018)

handle is hein.journals/ialrr71 and id is 1 raw text is: 






                  IN SEARCH OF THE HIGH ROAD:

                      MEANING AND EVIDENCE

                              PAUL OSTERMAN*



           This article is the first in a series to celebrate the 70th anniversary
           of the ILR Review. We will be highlighting important research
           themes that have been featured in the journal over its many years
           of publication. In this article, Paul Osterman reviews research on
           the quality ofjobs and recent debates over High Road and Low
           Road approaches to employment practices. Scholars and policy
           advocates frequently utilize the distinction between High Road and
           Low Road firms as a framework for efforts to improve the quality of
           work in low-wage employers. This article assesses the logic and evi-
           dence that underlies this construct. The author provides a defini-
           tion of the concept and examines the evidence behind the
           assumption that firms have a choice in how they design their
           employment policies. He then takes up the assertion that firms that
           adopt a High Road model can do well by doing good and adds
           precision to this claim by reviewing the evidence that a profit-
           maximizing firm would benefit from following the High Road path.
           The article concludes by suggesting a research agenda and provid-
           ing a framework for policy that flows from the conclusions drawn
           from the existing research base.



 S tagnant wages and earnings inequality have directed scholarly and policy
    attention to the employment practices of firms. The distinction between
 High Road and Low Road employers has emerged as an important
 theme, as has the puzzle of how to push firms onto the High Road model.
   The power of the High Road/Low Road idea is demonstrated by its take-
up at the highest levels of government. The Obama Administration's
Secretary of Labor and the Director of the National Economic Council
jointly issued a report entitled Profit and Purpose: The High Road Is the
Smart Road (White House 2016). The president himself visited so-called
High Road employers, including Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan,
and a Costco superstore, to highlight their employment practices. He also



  *PAUL OSTERMAN is NTU Professor at MIT Sloan School of Management. I am grateful to Erin Kelly for
very helpful comments. For information, correspondence can be directed to the author at
osterman@mit.edu.
KEvwoRDs: employment practices, high performance work systems, High Road/Low Road model, low-
wage employers


                        ILI? Review, 71 (1), January 2018, pp. 3-34
                  DOI: 10.1177/0019793917738757. © The Author(s) 2017
                     Journal website: journals.sagepub.com/home/ilr
                Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPennissions.nav

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