Human Resource Economics and Public Policy: Essays in Honor of Vernon M. Briggs Jr

Human Resource Economics and Public Policy: Essays in Honor of Vernon M. Briggs Jr

Human Resource Economics and Public Policy: Essays in Honor of Vernon M. Briggs Jr

Human Resource Economics and Public Policy: Essays in Honor of Vernon M. Briggs Jr

Synopsis

This book pays tribute to Vernon Briggs and his enduring mark on the study of human resources. The chapters, by his students and colleagues, explore and extend Briggs’s work on employment, education and training, immigration, and local labor markets. His unwavering emphasis on institutional reality, public policy, and economic dynamics animates the entire collection.

Excerpt

Charles J. Whalen Utica College and Cornell University

A few weeks before the start of his senior year at the University of Maryland in September 1958, Vernon M. Briggs Jr. took an all-night drive to visit his college roommate’s home in Detroit, Michigan. Arriving with his roommate in downtown Detroit at daybreak, Briggs saw “several blocks where the sidewalks were absolutely filled with people.” He recalls:

I couldn’t imagine what they were all doing standing there at this
early hour. As we drove further, we came to the building that they
were waiting to open. It was an office of the Michigan Employ
ment Commission. The people were lined-up to register for unem
ployment compensation. I’d never seen unemployed people face to
face before. These were not statistics; they were human beings and
they were all out of work (quoted in Rohe 2006, p. 228).

Briggs describes the moment as “a life-altering experience.” Returning to College Park to complete his undergraduate program, Briggs made a decision to concentrate on labor economics. As he explained in an interview in 2006, “It is the one sub-field of economics that deals directly with people and their wellbeing” (quoted in Rohe 2006, p. 228).

Within a year, Briggs was back in Michigan. This time, he was a graduate student at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Senator John F. Kennedy came to Michigan State during the 1960 presidential campaign and delivered an inspirational speech from the steps of the Student Union Building. “I was there, probably not more than 30 feet from him,” Briggs recalls.

A short time later, President Kennedy called on Americans to serve their country—and public-service television advertisements suggested college teaching as one important avenue of service. “It may sound very idealistic today,” says Briggs, “but I decided to answer Kennedy’s chal-

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