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Kalleberg’s- Labor Market Polarization

Free «Kalleberg's- Labor Market Polarization» Essay Sample


There are several jobs that are taken by a number of people for various reasons. While some people take jobs in order to earn or survive, others take job in order to have a feeling of service and relevance to the society. According to Kalleberg 2011, jobs can be either described as good or bad according to a number of factors. Such factors that lead to classification or polarization of jobs as either good or bad include the level of education required, earnings, and the autonomy of specific workers, fringe benefits such as medical and retirement benefits. The polarization of labor has occurred against the backdrop of reduced job security across the board as well as stagnation of earnings except for the very high earners (Kalleberg, 2011).

One of careers that are considered to be very skilled is architecture. It is also considered to be very professional as people willing to join are required to have high academic potential and must be willing and able to be trained into various facets of this career. In ancient Greece, architecture was seen like a senior branch of carpentry or masonry. The chief reason for this perception was the key role that architects played in construction: they aided in design and planning of structures as well as directed the construction of such structures to make them safe and economical among others. Today, architects are tasked with the responsibility of designing various structures including buildings and should think about how the structure would look when finished. The current economic and environmental factors require that they ensure that structures are designed to be used in various use areas which should be practical, safe and cost-effective and able to efficiently accommodate the needs of the users (Jacobs, Ryan & Bernan Press, 2003).

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Architecture is a career for people, who are academically gifted. This makes it to be viewed as a career for the few and is associated with development and refinement. In the USA, it is considered as a career for the white Americans. Bachelor of architecture degree holders have high income compared to other graduates in most other fields. Additionally, architecture as a field enjoys to a significant extent self-regulation compared to other professions such as medicine and accounting among others. This increases the autonomy of the profession. Due to the fact that some of architects design long-lasting and magnificent structures among the other reasons seen above, the career can be classified as a ‘good job’ according to the perspectives of Kalleberg (2001). This job is selected for discussion due to its direct association with the academically able people as well as the fact that they design buildings and structures, which are a crucial part of human development today.

Background Information

Architecture is associated with the refined members of the higher middle class in the US economy. The polarization results from very critical requirements that are needed for one to join this field. Additionally, a career in architecture requires one to demonstrate a high level of academic ability and to study longer in the college, to be certified and to participate in several internship programs. This career is very professional in nature and architects end up earning more (in regard to salaries and fringe benefits) than people engaged in other careers (Autor & National Bureau of Economic Research, 2009).

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The US citizens have been enjoying high living standards for a number of decades. This has put people under pressure as they have to earn enough to afford a decent living. At the same time, job security has consistently reduced in addition to a widening gap between people in the society in regard to how much they earn. The earnings of the middle class and lower class earners have stagnated and the economy has created a wide variety of job choices to the population. Classification of jobs as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ has greatly increased partly due to personal preferences and aspects such as earnings and work conditions (Monthly labor review, 2000).

Architecture is a high earning profession with high income. It is also desired by many through its being associated with sophistication. Architects may feel like they make a greater contribution to the society through the development of their (societies’) structures. Architects and architectural firms enjoy a marked autonomy in their work. The above factors make this job to be viewed as a good job.

In their duty to design structures, a substantial amount of formal education is needed. This is to ensure they are able to design structures that are safe, economical and suitable for activities such as shopping, offices, residence and worship among others. The structures designed could be free standing or complexes and their designs may even integrate their environments (Weisman, 2014). In some instances, they design and develop entire neighborhoods. Due to a professional nature of this occupation as seen earlier, it requires that one has at least professional (bachelor) degree in architecture, which requires 5 years. In some instances, graduate degrees are accepted.

Required Education Bachelor of Architecture or Master of Architecture
Other Requirements Internship, state licensure
Projected Job Growth* 17% between 2012 and 2022
Median Salary (2013)* $74,110

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The table above summarizes details of what is needed for one to be an architect, earnings as well as growth trends. The career requires accreditation and certification and hence the National Accrediting Board (NAAB) certifies programs for bachelors, masters and Ph.D (United States, 1990). The continued development and renovation of structures for various reasons make the profession always relevant. It is also preferred by higher income earners and, mostly the white Americans, as a sure way of earning more. The working conditions are usually good as architects work in an open studio setting and frequently visit clients’ sites. They earn more income and fringe benefits due to the nature of their job.

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Architecture Is ‘Segmented’

Architecture has managed to remain autonomous for the better part of the twentieth century. Some architects started their own ventures unlike other professions that were integrated into large industries during industrialization and the World War. It is during the last three to four decades that entrepreneurs thought of introducing large firms in which architects work to a corporate setting. A large number of architects in the US are white. The autonomy and high earnings make it a ‘good job’. Additionally, this also goes back to the traditions of European Americans, who like to be associated with development. They are also in a better position to attain all the requirements needed to become an architect than the rest, especially the minorities. For this reason, approximately 80% of all architects in the US are white. Most architects are male (Kalleberg, 2011). This is due to the tradition that construction jobs are masculine in nature. Additionally, the general assumption that women are better with jobs related to emotions and love is one of the reasons why most ladies are not interested in architecture. According to Kalleberg (2001), women are made to believe that they are better with ‘love jobs’ and, thus, they have curved a niche in such occupations as air hostess, housekeeping, customer care representatives, and human resource representative among others. The social class that is more interested in architecture is mainly middle class, which is constituted of people, who like to be identified with refined skills (United States, 1980).

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Different Aspects of Architecture that Make It a Good Job

According to Kalleberg, the official unemployment rate in the US is 5.9 % with some states experiencing a higher rate of 7.3% (as of 2013). At the same time, a nationwide minimum wage is $7.25 while California had a higher rate of $9.00. The median income for most of the US homes averaged $52,100 if both man and woman in each household were working. The data on the minimum wage sheds light on occupation that is considered bad. Very few Americans are interested in being paid that low against the backdrop of elevated standards of living demanding higher income. People earning the minimum wages are unskilled and perform unskilled labor. At the same time, the data shows the average income for two people working and living together. Architecture is seen as a profession characterized by skilled and highly empowered labor. The level of education makes the income high and competition low. Kalleberg (2011) observed that education plays make people more competitive and earn more.

The diagram below shows how the level of education/skills, income and competition for job opportunities are related. Highly skilled people enjoy less competition and earn more. This case applies to architecture. As discussed earlier, people are allowed to work as architects after they get bachelor’s degree and certification. According to the table below, the average weekly income of such people is $1,053 and it increases to $1,665 at the doctorate level. In the same educational category, the level of unemployment is 4.9 and below. This reduces as more and more education is attained. In terms of income and competition, architecture can be classified as a ‘good’ job.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth in architecture occupations within a decade between 2012 and 2022 is around 17 %. This is one of the highest among other professional careers. This comes with prospects for reduced unemployment rate among architects and possible increase in income as demand for their services increases. According to the above table, an architect can increase his/her income from $1,053 to $1,665 by upgrading his/her degree from bachelor’s to doctorate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual salary for architects in 2013 was $74,110, which is higher than most other professions. Additionally, each individual architect can increase his/her income. One of the ways in which it can be done include performing their duties in a distinct and innovative way among others (Kalleberg, 2011).

With ever reducing job security in the twentieth century and especially after WWII, the access to fringe benefits in the US is also decreasing. Employers may fail to promise such benefits to their employees. The main reason for this is the increase in the number of trained and proficient people seeking same job opportunities which reduces the need for any employer to express a significant need to retain employees as it is easy to replace them. However, fringe benefits for architects in the US are higher and more accessible. However, architects earn less than doctors and lawyers despite similar quality of academic and practical training.

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In 2007, an architecture magazine carried out a survey to identify various aspects of architects’ job. This included the availability and access to fringe benefits. The survey established that in most cases, the employer was responsible for remitting the full amount of premiums for health insurance. The study also found out that despite the fact that other firms did not pay the full amounts, they remitted between 75-80% of the whole insurance premiums and other health care costs (Kalleberg, 2011).

Another fringe benefit that is specific to the field of architecture included subsides for fitness services while some other firms extended flexible spending accounts aimed at reimbursing employees for out-of-pocket medical expenses. It was also found out that some architectural firms allowed their employees some other family benefits, like paternity leave aimed at letting new fathers to spend more time with their families.

In 2008 an architecture magazine found out that around 90% of architectural firms provided their employees with IRA or 401(k) plan (both are retirement plans). Additionally, 83% of the studied firms met charges levied by professional association on each architect, while approximately 70% either paid fees for their employees pursuing further education or met dental insurance subscriptions. The study also disclosed that over 68% of architectural firms offered long-term incapacity coverage to their employees. 56% of the studied firms offered their employees a form of a flexible spending plan.

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Workers` Autonomy

The whole architectural industry depends mainly on self-regulation and only a small percentage of government regulation. This allows a lot of freedom to architectural firms and individuals. The job allows each architect to explore and show his/her creativity as he/she works for a favorable combination of factors such as cost, safety and environmental concerns of each living space (Scheer, 2014).

The autonomy of each individual varies. On average, it is estimated that architects have a 40 hour-work week. This may not involve fixed schedules and one chooses when to work as long as a deadline is met. Additionally, architects` work involves freedom regarding where and how to meet their clients. An architect has to plan and evaluate a number of factors before visiting a site and may not have a fixed schedule as to when to visit. This means that each architect is free to prepare his/her schedule according to various conditions. These factors make architects’ work have some marked autonomy. On the other hand, an architect may find him/herself working for long hours in order to meet deadlines. In addition, his/her artistic expression is limited by various scientific rules that need to be followed strictly during the design and construction of a structure (Macaulay, 2000).

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The ability of architects to make their own schedule makes this career a ‘good’ job. However, this becomes one of the greatest drawbacks of the same in that each architect may be solely responsible for meeting the deadline. For this reason, some instances may require one to work through the night and even over the weekends, which might intrude into family time and may affect how one responds to non-work issues. Self-employed architects may lack fringe benefits among others but enjoy the greatest autonomy. In addition, they possess the ability to determine how much they earn depending on how they work and manage their time. This makes them work longer hours. Some of them work even after work hours and meet their clients during evening or weekends hours. This may affect how such people deal with other issues that are not work related (Card & Ashenfelter, 2011). They may lack personal or family time.

With good management, architects, whether employed or self-employed, earn more due to their skills and may have more benefits. They enjoy autonomy and can make their own schedules, thus, having enough time to carry out other activities outside work. Each of them is responsible for successful completion of a specific project with very minimal supervision. This makes this career fit into Kalleberg’s category of ‘good’ jobs in today’s highly polarized labor market.

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The future for architecture as a career is promising. This field is known to continuously reinvent itself. For instance, the new field of neo-futuristic architecture has not been adequately explored. Additionally, the developing global economy and the elevated standards of living among the Americans indicate that new structures will always be needed. More living spaces need to be designed and constructed while the old ones will need to be improved to cater for the current and future needs. This means that architecture as a profession will always be relevant. It is expected that the architectural industry in the US will grow by 17% between 2012 and 2022. This can be also seen in the past increase in annual earnings for architects. For instance, the median earnings for architects in 2004 were $60,300. This rose steadily over the next decade such that the earnings in 2014 were $74,110; this shows an increment of almost $ 4,000 over a period of only 10 years, hence indicating further growth. It is also important to note that this has occurred against the backdrop of stagnation of earnings in many other careers.

The quality and the perception of the job will improve with improvement in technology. Due to the use of computer-aided design development of plans has become very easy. Additionally, these tools are continuously improved to respond to various needs of the market. Programmers are also working to develop tools for design, which will further ease the workload and improve the quality of architects` work (Scheer, 2014). The career will continue being viewed as ‘good’ due to the projected increase in earnings. The increase in use of computer technology may also help in making it more appealing to the youth but the ability of architects to make their own schedules will play a crucial role in making this career appealing to many people.

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