July 1, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. An activity of the trustee corporation established by Dr. W.E. Upjohn just before his death in 1932, the Institute sprang from Dr. Upjohn’s interest in finding solutions to the problems of unemployment, which he personally saw taking a toll on local workers and their families as a result of the Great Depression. It is from these difficult economic times that the Institute began its journey. Perhaps our mission and path for the last three-quarters of a century is best explained by former Upjohn Institute researcher Saul Blaustein in a book he authored in 1985 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Institute:
Despite the escape from the Great Depression and from a postwar retrogression, despite a dramatically changed economic atmosphere, unemployment readily becomes a central concern whenever and wherever it assumes any noticeable proportions. Most of those who suffered through the bleak years of the 1930s are gone, but the memory of that experience lies embedded in the collective psyche of the nation. The deep-seated fear of serious unemployment can be easily provoked by signs of any economic weakness that threatens job security. That fear, so provoked, can power strong social and political reaction.
It is out of that early context and continuing uneasiness about unemployment that the Upjohn Institute emerged and shaped its work. Understanding unemployment—its causes and effects, the means for its alleviation and remedy, and above all its prevention—lies at the core of the Institute’s mission and purpose. Knowledge about unemployment extends to understanding employment as well, the other side of the coin. Given the vast economic changes that have taken place, the growth of our population, the increased variations in life styles and career roles, it is not surprising that the nature of employment and unemployment has also become quite different, by and large. Thus, all aspects of employment and unemployment are fair game for Institute interest and study. The Institute’s primary orientation is around the policy issues that arise out of employment and unemployment problems. Its objective is to inform the decisions that need to be made about these issues.
Thirty-five years later, Blaustein’s description endures, as the Institute continues to pursue Dr. Upjohn’s interest in finding solutions to problems related to unemployment and employment.