The Dependency Structure of Bad Jobs: How Market Constraint Undermines Job Quality
Power and dependence in economic exchange shape industry structure. When a focal industry faces powerful suppliers or buyers, this can reduce industry rents. The authors argue that these dynamics also affect job quality by reducing the economic surplus available to be shared with workers. Drawing on ideas from power-dependency theory, this article explains industry earnings and job quality differences by examining inter-industry exchange patterns. The authors build on Ronald Burt’s seminal analysis of structural constraint in economic exchange using industry input-output tables. They calculate market constraint measures for recent years in the United States and link these with CPS data on wages and benefits. Analyses reveal that workers in more buyer-constrained industries (dependence on powerful buyers) experience lower wages and benefits. Findings also show that market constraint reduces the economic surplus available for union bargaining. Theory and results suggest that market concentration reduces suppliers’ economic rents, harming job quality.