© 2016

The Political Economy of a Living Wage

Progressives, the New Deal, and Social Justice

  • Reveals archival evidence of early living wage agendas

  • Explores the social justice foundations of the New Deal

  • Traces the idea of a living wage back to the Progressive era


Part of the Palgrave Studies in American Economic History book series (AEH)

About this book


This book tells the story behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of the phrase "living wage" in a variety of speeches, letters, and statements, and examines the degree to which programs of the New Deal reflected the ideas of a living wage movement that existed in the US for almost three decades before Roosevelt was elected president. Far from being a side issue, the previously unexplored living wage debate sheds light on the New Deal philosophy of social justice by identifying the value judgments behind its policies. Moving chronologically through history, this book's highlights include the revelation of a living wage agenda under the War Industry Board (WIB)'s National War Labor Board (NWLB) during World War I, the unearthing of long-forgotten literature from the 1920s and 30s that formed the foundation of Roosevelt's statements on a living wage, and the examination of contemporary studies that used a simple living wage formula combining collective bargaining, social insurance, and minimum wage as a standard for social justice used to measure the impact of New Deal polices.


National Industrial Recovery Act Franklin Delano Roosevelt National War Labor Board (NWLB) War Industry Board (WIB) social security Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Social Security Administration (SSA) minimum wage

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.St. Mary’s College of MarylandSt. Mary’s CityUSA

About the authors

Donald R. Stabile is Professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, USA, where he has taught economics for over 35 years.  He is the author or co-author of eleven previous books, including The Living Wage (2009), and scholarly articles on the history of political economy.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Political Economy of a Living Wage
  • Book Subtitle Progressives, the New Deal, and Social Justice
  • Authors Donald Stabile
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in American Economic History
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in American Economic History
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and the Author(s) 2016
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Economics and Finance Economics and Finance (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-32472-2
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-81293-9
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-32473-9
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages X, 292
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Economic History
    Economic Policy
    International Political Economy
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“Stabile impressively weaves together a far-ranging discourse on the living wage as moral philosophy, economic theory, and social policy and shows how these ideas coalesced in the 1930s to form one of the foundation principles of Roosevelt’s New Deal program. Not only is the book an intellectual feast for people interested in history of economic thought and social policy, it does much to broaden the over-narrow and a-historical interpretation and analysis of the minimum wage and living wage that run through a substantial part of the modern-day labor economics literature.” (Bruce E. Kaufman, Professor of Economics, Georgia State University, USA)

For the past 20 years, labor and social justice organizers in the U.S. have fought to ensure living wages for U.S. workers.  This book provides important new insights on how living wage principles stretch back much further in U.S. history, including, critically, as a cornerstone for the New Deal.   Stabile has written an illuminating blend of economic and political history that also succeeds in expanding our moral sentiments.” (Robert Pollin, Distinguished Professor of Economics and Co-Director, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts-Amherst, USA)