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In much economic analysis it is a convenient fiction to suppose that changes over time in wages and employment are determined by shifts in supply or demand within a more or less competitive market framework Indeed, this framework has been effectively deployed to understand many episodes in American economic history. The authors argue here, however, that by minimizing the role of labor-market institutions such an approach is incomplete. Drawing on the history of American labor markets over two centuries, they argue that institutions - by which they mean both formal and informal rules that constrain the choices of economic agents - have played a significant role in the determination of wages, employment and other market outcomes over time.
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