About IRLE

IRLE is an interdisciplinary institute at the University of California, Berkeley that connects world-class research with policy to improve workers’ lives, communities, and society.


The 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

  • IRLE partners with faculty and experts 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 emerging scholars and established academics at Berkeley, providing research support and a thriving intellectual community.

Sylvia Allegretto

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.

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.

Undergraduate students on the steps of IRLE

Labor education and training for the next generation

IRLE 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.

Map of California showing county-by-county distribution of low-wage workers in 2016

Shaping policy and debate

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment was the first to illustrate the poverty wages early childhood educators receive and how this impacts the quality of education – permanently changing the conversation. It has provided technical assistance to eight states and four cities about early education workforce policy.

The Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics has shaped the adoption of minimum wage policies in the US by developing models that show those wages support communities and business. It has provided technical assistance to over 12 organizations on wage issues, including the City of San Jose and New York State Senate.

The California Policy Lab works with California’s state and local governments to generate scientific evidence that solves the state’s most urgent problems. In 2017, its first year, it changed how the state corrections agency intercepts contraband in prisons. Its research also influenced University of California policies on accepting letters of recommendation in its application process.

Labor Center research that analyzed how California’s progressive policies have benefited the state economy has informed the state assembly and the news that representatives share with constituents.

As California develops leading climate policies, the Labor Center is working with environmental and worker groups on research and policy development to support the creation of good jobs.