Mission and History of the Upjohn Institute


The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent research organization devoted to investigating the causes and effects of unemployment, to identifying feasible methods of insuring against unemployment, and to devising ways and means of alleviating the distress and hardship caused by unemployment.  The Institute is an activity of the W.E. Upjohn Unemployment Trustee Corporation, which was established in 1932 to administer a fund set aside by Dr. W.E. Upjohn, founder of the Upjohn Company.


  1. Link scholarship, evaluation, and experimentation with issues of public and private employment and unemployment policy
  2. Bring new knowledge to the attention of policymakers and decision makers
  3. Make knowledge and scholarship relevant and useful in their applications to the solutions of employment and unemployment problems


The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research organization, was established on July 1, 1945. It is an activity of the W.E. Upjohn Unemployment Trustee Corporation, which was founded in 1932 to administer a fund set aside by the late Dr. W.E. Upjohn (1852-1932), founder of the Upjohn Company, for the purpose of conducting research into the causes and effects of unemployment and measures for the alleviation of unemployment.

The Institute grew out of Dr. Upjohn’s concern for the well-being of workers who were displaced because of economic downturns. In 1932, just months before his death, he purchased a sizable parcel of land outside Kalamazoo, Michigan, where laid-off workers could grow food for their families. This grand experiment of a land-based social safety net was supplanted by the Social Security system a few years later.

Today, the Institute has 55 employees working in two divisions. The Research Division analyzes the dynamics of the labor market and conducts evaluations of employment programs around the world. The Employment Management Services Division is the administrative entity for the local Workforce Investment Board, administering the federal and state employment programs for Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties.

The marriage of research and operations makes the Institute a unique organization. With a recent expansion and upgrading of facilities, we are even better equipped to fulfill our mission of finding practical solutions to employment-related problems.

Watch a video on the life of W.E. Upjohn


The activities of the Research Division are funded largely by income from its endowment, supplemented by outside grants, contracts, and publication sales.

The Institute’s research program is composed of three elements:

  1. A resident staff of economists, nine of whom hold PhD degrees, conducts research on a wide variety of employment issues. These senior staff economists are supported by research analysts, librarians, an information technology team, and administrative staff. Results of their research appear in Institute publications, leading academic journals, and other outlets for scholarly research. Findings are also widely disseminated to policymakers and practitioners.
  2. A competitive external grant program provides financial support to researchers outside the Institute to conduct studies that extend and complement the Institute’s internal research program. Early Career Research Awards are used to encourage policy-relevant research on key employment issues. The Institute also supports a joint public lecture and seminar series with Western Michigan University and an annual dissertation award for the best PhD thesis on policy-relevant employment issues.
  3. The publications program disseminates research conducted by Institute staff, grant recipients, and other outside experts through a variety of publications. Books inform researchers, practitioners, and policymakers about important research findings and their policy implications. Since 1947, the Institute has published some 200 titles on a wide variety of policy-relevant topics. To provide a frequent overview of the Institute’s research, a newsletter, Employment Research, is published four times a year. The Institute also prints and makes available on-line staff working papers, policy papers, technical reports, and Business Outlook for West Michigan, a quarterly review of the area economy that features information on current economic conditions and near-term forecasts for metropolitan areas in West Michigan.