Toggle Mobile Menu
Academic Programs
Department Updates June 24, 2024

From Solow to Goldin, top moments from “The Work Goes On” podcast

In the seventh episode of “The Work Goes On,” famed economist and Nobel Laureate Robert Solow talks to Princeton Professor Orley Ashenfelter about his extraordinary life’s journey from Depression-era Brooklyn to becoming a leading figure in the field of economics. 

Throughout the interview, Solow’s larger-than-life personality and famed sense of humor shine through.

“From an early age, I’ve had the feeling that the world was nuts,” he says at one point. “Things happened that you couldn’t possibly explain in any intelligible way, and things strike me as amusing, as funny.”

Since launching his podcast at the end of 2022,  Ashenfelter has interviewed 29 leaders in the field of industrial relations and labor economics to hear their first-hand accounts of how the field’s most influential early research came to be.

In each episode, guests including Solow, 2023 Nobel Laureate Claudia Goldin, former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, and many more talk about their early lives, their mentors, and their biggest professional challenges and achievements.

If you’re a labor economist yourself or are simply interested in the field of industrial relations, “The Work Goes On” makes for great summer listening. 

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, consider the episodes below or browse all the full library of interviews here.

Bob Solow: Why I dropped out of Harvard to fight the Nazis

In a wide-ranging interview recorded just months before his passing in December 2023, MIT’s Robert Solow spoke to Ashenfelter about everything from leaving Harvard to fight in WWII to his time serving in President Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisors. 

Listen here

Claudia Goldin: A Nobel Prize for an “inner city kid” from the Bronx

In Episode 4, Harvard University’s Claudia Goldin spoke about growing up as an “inner city kid” in the Bronx, how her famous study on the impact of blind auditions at orchestras came to be, and her life’s work on “the single most important change in the labor force” for almost every country: women’s labor force participation.

Listen here

Robert McKersie: From the son of a union man to a leading expert on labor negotiations

Talking to Ashenfelter for the fifth episode in the podcast, MIT’s Robert McKersie spoke about the early influence on his career of George Shultz, Joel Seidman, Al Rees, and Gregg Lewis, as well as the Civil Rights Movement and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement today.

Listen here

Myra Strober: On gender discrimination in the field and the need for feminist economics

For Episode 19, Stanford’s Myra Strober discussed her path as a trailblazing female labor economist who became the first president of the International Association for Feminist Economics.

“I had an interview at Harvard,” Strober recalled of her Ph.D. admissions process. “It was extremely brief. The first question the interviewer asked me was, was I normal? And I, in turn, asked him what that meant. And he said, ‘Oh, you know. Do you want to get married and have children?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m already married.’ And he said, ‘Well there you have it,’ and he opened the door and showed me into the hallway.’”

Listen here

Ray Marshall: From an orphanage in Mississippi to U.S. Secretary of Labor

At 14 years old, the University of Texas at Austin’s Ray Marshall left his home at the Mississippi Baptist Orphanage to join the U.S. Navy. Talking to Ashenfelter for Episode 18, Marshall shed light on what came next, including how the GI bill helped him become an economist, and the time he convinced President Carter to raise the minimum wage despite calls from others, including Charles Schultz, not to. 

“Your problem is that you’re monolingual,” Marshall recalled telling Schultz. “You can only speak economics. Now I’m bilingual. I can speak economics and Baptist.”

Listen here

Michael Piore: A trip to Puerto Rico that inspired decades of scholarship on immigration

In Episode 14, MIT’s Michael Piore spoke about his wide-ranging expertise across different areas of labor economics, discussing everything from the function of internal labor markets to manufacturing and product innovation and the social forces and structures that affect economic activity.

Listen here

“The Work Goes On”—a podcast produced as Princeton’s Industrial Relations Section (IR Section) celebrates its 100th anniversary—is an oral history of industrial relations and labor economics hosted by Princeton’s Orley Ashenfelter.

To learn more about the IR Section and its 100 years of impact on research and policy, visit

Back to all News & Activities