Paying to Work for Free
University of Dream Website (detail)

A detail from the website University of Dreams (

The economy’s still lousy. Unemployment’s high and higher. Starting a career is murder. And guess who’s getting the internships that so often put a foot on the ladder to success?

Well, people with money. A hot business has grown up around paying for hot internships. Unpaid internships. Mom and dad shelling out $5000, $8000, $9000 to buy a summer internship that may get junior started.

Nice, if you’ve got the money. But what about merit? What about opportunity for all?

This hour: When it’s pay-to-play in the American economy.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Gerry Shih, a paid summer intern at The New York Times and author of the article “Unpaid Work, but They Pay for Privilege.”

Sara Lipka, former staff reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, where she covered internships and career services, among many other topics. She currently works on a farm, and blogs for The Atlantic on farming and food.

Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. He is the principle author of the EPI’s “The State of Working America,” an analysis of the US labor market released every two years.

Lev Bayer, president and CEO of the Washington Internship Program.

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