The top reads for ASSA 2022

Books and journals on economics, social science, and progress

The Allied Social Sciences Associations’ annual meeting kicks off this week, bringing together 64 associations to discuss the latest emerging research in economics. We are highlighting several of our books and journals at the conference this year, including Cass Sunstein’s latest work, a book on the United States’ progress in sharing the benefits of innovation with workers, and an economic and legal analysis of hub-and-spoke cartels. Read on to learn about these books and more.


Sludge: What Stops Us from Getting Things Done and What to Do about It by Cass R. Sunstein

Missing file.

We’ve all had to fight our way through administrative sludge—filling out complicated online forms, mailing in paperwork, standing in line at the motor vehicle registry. This kind of red tape is a nuisance, but, as Cass Sunstein shows in Sludge, it can also impair health, reduce growth, entrench poverty, and exacerbate inequality. Confronted by sludge, people just give up—and lose a promised outcome: a visa, a job, a permit, an educational opportunity, necessary medical help. In this lively and entertaining look at the terribleness of sludge, Sunstein explains what we can do to reduce it.

“In Sludge, Sunstein shines a light in the bureaucratic darkness, and, by calling for ‘sludge audits,’ adds his moral authority to the growing demand to clear out the bureaucratic underbrush.” Education Next


Hub-and-Spoke Cartels: Why They Form, How They Operate, and How to Prosecute Them by Luke Garrod, Joseph E. Harrington, Jr. and Matthew Olczak

Cover for Hub-and-Spoke Cartels

A cartel forms when competitors conspire to limit competition through coordinated actions. Most cartels are composed exclusively of firms that would otherwise be in competition, but in a hub-and-spoke cartel, those competitors (“spokes”) conspire with the assistance of an upstream supplier or a downstream buyer (“hub”). This book provides the first comprehensive economic and legal analysis of hub-and-spoke cartels, explaining their formation and how they operate to create and sustain a collusive environment. Sixteen detailed case studies, including cases brought against toy manufacturer Hasbro and the Apple ebook case, illustrate the economic framework and legal strategies discussed.

“This important and original study reveals the complex motivations and activities of hub-and-spoke conspiracies, incorporating both lucid theoretical analysis and detailed applications to a variety of modern cases.” —William H. Page, University of Florida


The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines by David Autor, David A. Mindell and Elisabeth B. Reynolds

Cover of The Work of the Future

The United States has too many low-quality, low-wage jobs. Every country has its share, but those in the United States are especially poorly paid and often without benefits. Meanwhile, overall productivity increases steadily and new technology has transformed large parts of the economy, enhancing the skills and paychecks of higher-paid knowledge workers. What’s wrong with this picture? Why have so many workers benefited so little from decades of growth? The Work of the Future shows that technology is neither the problem nor the solution. We can build better jobs if we create institutions that leverage technological innovation and also support workers through long cycles of technological transformation.

“This book, based on leading research and real-world insights, provides actionable recommendations to make technology work for, and not against, most workers.” —Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo


Combating Inequality: Rethinking Government’s Role edited by Olivier Blanchard and Dani Rodrik

Cover for Combating Inequality

Economic inequality is the defining issue of our time. In the United States, the wealth share of the top 1% has risen from 25% in the late 1970s to around 40% today. The percentage of children earning more than their parents has fallen from 90% in the 1940s to around 50% today. In Combating Inequality, leading economists, many of them current or former policymakers, bring good news: we have the tools to reverse the rise in inequality. In their discussions, they consider which of these tools are the most effective at doing so.


The Flip Side of Free: Understanding the Economics of the Internet by Michael Kende

Cover for The Flip Side of Free

The upside of the Internet is free Wi-Fi at Starbucks, Facetime over long distances, and nearly unlimited data for downloading or streaming. The downside is that our data goes to companies that use it to make money, our financial information is exposed to hackers, and the market power of technology companies continues to increase. In The Flip Side of Free, Michael Kende shows that free Internet comes at a price. We’re beginning to realize this. Our all-purpose techno-caveat is “I love my smart speaker,” but is it really tracking everything I do? listening to everything I say? What’s the future of free? Data is the price of free service, and the new currency of the Internet age. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with free, Kende says, as long as we anticipate and try to mitigate what’s on the flip side.

“I read this book in one sitting. So should you. Clear, balanced, nuanced, and analytic. I have lived the Internet story and this book puts choices in a clear light.” Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer


Putting Skill to Work: How to Create Good Jobs in Uncertain Times by Nichola Lowe

Cover of Putting Skill to Work

The United States has a jobs problem—not enough well-paying jobs to go around and not enough clear pathways leading to them. Skill development is critical for addressing this employment crisis, but there are many unresolved questions about who has skill, how it is attained, and whose responsibility it is to build skills over time. In this book, Nichola Lowe tells the stories of pioneering workforce intermediaries—nonprofits, unions, community colleges—that harness this ambiguity around skill to extend economic opportunity to workers at the bottom of the labor market.

Putting Skill to Work offers a bold, perfectly timed, and attainable vision for building better jobs in the United States. Refreshingly, the answer comes through skills, not schools. To learn how it can be done, study this book.” David Autor, MIT


Tomorrow’s Economy: A Guide to Creating Healthy Green Growth by Per Espen Stoknes

Cover for Tomorrow's Economy

In Tomorrow’s Economy, Per Espen Stoknes reframes the hot-button issue of economic growth. Going beyond the usual pro-growth versus anti-growth debate, Stoknes calls for healthy growth. Healthy economic growth is more regenerative than wasteful, repairs problems rather than greenwashing them, and restores equity rather than exacerbating inequalities. Stoknes—a psychologist, economist, climate strategy researcher, and green-tech entrepreneur—shows that we already have the tools to achieve healthy growth, but our success depends on transformations in scaling innovations, government practices, and individual behaviors. Stoknes provides a compass to guide us toward the mindset, mechanisms, and possibilities of healthy growth.

“Too often growth supporters and anti-growthers come to loggerheads, neglecting the crucial issue of what kind of economic growth we’re creating. Stoknes’s growth compass is a crucial tool to guide us toward a finer future.” Hunter Lovins, coauthor of Natural Capitalism


Featured journal: The Review of Economics and Statistics

Cover for The Review of Economics and Statistics

The Review of Economics and Statistics is a 100-year-old general journal of applied (especially quantitative) economics. Edited at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Review has published some of the most important articles in empirical economics. From time to time, the Review also publishes collections of papers or symposia devoted to a single topic of methodological or empirical interest.


Explore more of the MIT Press’s books on social sciences