The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a private, not-for-profit, nonpartisan, independent research organization, has studied policy-related issues of employment and unemployment since its founding in 1945.  The Institute is headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

Institute research focuses on labor markets, addressing several core areas: the causes of unemployment and the effectiveness of social safety net programs in mitigating its effects; education and training systems to improve workers’ employability and earnings; and the influence of state and local economic development policies on local labor markets. The Institute also assesses emerging trends affecting workers and labor markets in its core research areas.

The Institute carries out its mission by disseminating its research and through direct services. The communications team makes sure Institute insight reaches the researchers, policymakers, advocates and practitioners who can put it to use. The Center for Workforce Innovation and Solutions administers federal and state-funded employment and training programs for disadvantaged and dislocated workers in Southwest Michigan.

Front of Upjohn building


During the Great Depression, William Erastus Upjohn, founder of The Upjohn Company, embarked on a grand experiment. He provided land for displaced workers in the community so they could plant a garden or work on the company’s farm co-op to provide for themselves and their families.

Six weeks before his death, in 1932, Upjohn created the W.E. Upjohn Unemployment Trustee Corporation to support the initiative. Three years later, federal legislation established the Unemployment Insurance System, which replaced the land with cash assistance as a social safety net for displaced workers.

On July 1, 1945, after consultation with national research and policy experts, the Trustee Corp. created what is today the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

Dr. Upjohn’s generous gift in creating the Trustee Corporation provides primary financial means to support the Institute’s activities. The endowment provides the Institute with unique opportunities of long-term sustainability, consistency in purpose and the freedom to research issues and experiment with innovative approaches in service of its mission.

More history:

About the Upjohn Family 
Don Parfet, Chair, Upjohn Institute Board of Trustees, provides a look at the lineage and life of W.E. Upjohn.

About the Upjohn Institute's Kalamazoo Campus 
Lynn Houghton of Western Michigan University examines the history of the Institute’s neighborhood and hometown.


Upjohn Experts 
Upjohn Board of Trustees

More information:

Employment Opportunities
2024 Dissertation Award
Early Career Research Awards 
Economic Development Quarterly