Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

IRLE logoThe Institute for Research on Labor and Employment promotes better understanding of the conditions, policies, and institutions that affect the well-being of workers and their families and communities. We inform public debate with hard evidence about inequality, the economy, and the nature of work.

What IRLE does

  • We partner with faculty and researchers at UC Berkeley and beyond to foster innovative analysis and research that improves workers’ lives.
  • Through this research, we bring work and workers into academic and policy conversations and show how labor issues affect communities and institutions—and vice versa.   
  • We activate and support young scholars at Berkeley, as well as established academics, providing funding and an intellectual center for debate.

Hub for research and education

IRLE is home to several nationally-recognized centers and programs that conduct research, education, and outreach on labor and employment issues. The largest of our centers and principal outreach program is the Center for Labor Research and Education, also known as the Labor Center. IRLE also houses the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics (CWED), Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE), California Policy Lab (CPL), and California Public Employee Relations (CPER). Our centers provide in-depth research and policy analysis in areas such as minimum wage policies, the early childcare workforce, homelessness, and public sector labor and employment law.  Two more recent IRLE initiatives, the People Lab and Economics for Inclusive Prosperity (EfIP), are generating new research on the public sector workforce and policies to reduce inequality, respectively.

IRLE’s Working Paper series publishes the latest research by faculty affiliates; our Policy Brief series translates academic research for a public audience. Since 1961, IRLE has published the academic journal Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, the leading interdisciplinary journal in the field of employment and labor relations.

Home for scholars

IRLE fosters intellectual community, with public events featuring national academic and policy leaders that inform and provoke discussion. Each year, we host visiting scholars from around the globe who work on independent research projects at the Berkeley campus in partnership with our affiliated faculty in economics, sociology, business, law, public policy, and more. In recent years, we have held conferences on wage stagnation and income inequality, the minimum wage, wage standards for agricultural workers, and immigration reform.

Labor education and training for the next generation  

Workers at rally with "Respect & Dignity for All" on their shirtsIRLE provides leadership training and coursework for UC Berkeley students interested in labor markets, workers, and unions. These include Labor Summer internships, undergraduate research apprenticeship programs, and courses in labor and community organizing.  

IRLE provides dissertation fellowships, along with research grants for undergraduate and graduate students. We also support interdisciplinary working groups which bring students and faculty together to discuss themes such as policies affecting migrant agricultural workers, U.S. labor law, and the criminal justice system.

Research support for faculty

To drive essential research on work and employment, we directly fund faculty research and provide support for faculty seeking external funding (i.e. from foundations, government agencies, and private funders). IRLE also hosts interdisciplinary research projects, providing student and faculty affiliates with collaborative meeting space, opportunities for publication, and research support and promotion.

Group of people holding signs in front of Black Workers Rising background


Steven Raphael
(510) 643-8140
Staff contact
Lori Ospina
(510) 642-1946
Mailing address

2521 Channing Way
Berkeley, CA 94720 - 5555

In News

March 4, 2021

A mass exodus from California? Not exactly, says new Berkeley study

New research released today by the UC Berkeley California Policy Lab finds that, contrary to some news media reports suggesting a mass exodus from California, most moves in 2020 happened within the state. Exits from California in 2020 largely mirrored historical patterns, while the biggest change was a decrease in people moving into the state.  
July 6, 2020

COVID-19 shows fraying U.S. safety net, Berkeley scholars say

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented levels of unemployment and economic uncertainty, and despite strong government efforts to address human needs, continued support and bold policy are essential for the months ahead, top scholars said during a recent event at UC Berkeley.
October 31, 2019

The Uber/Lyft Ballot Initiative Guarantees only $5.64 an Hour

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash have unveiled their ballot initiative to undo historic worker protections enshrined in AB5, California’s new law that tightens the criteria for worker classification. The initiative claims drivers will receive a guaranteed pay equal to 120% of the minimum wage (that would be $15.60 in 2021, when the California minimum wage will be $13). However, the Labor Center's review of the initiative leads to a very different estimate.
October 31, 2018

Research initiative launched on health in working families

A new research hub based at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C., will explore the health effects of income and workplace policies.