Research over the past decade has made considerable progress toward achieving a holistic understanding of the myriad actors, interests, and relationships shaping labor rights in global supply chains, but numerous obstacles remain to building a more cumulative research program. In this essay we outline two major challenges and several fruitful directions forward. First, we review the different outcomes of interest in research on labor rights and highlight several tensions that lead to difficulty comparing findings across studies, inappropriate data choices, and unexamined causal assumptions. Second, we highlight a failure to adequately integrate the findings of research in two different subliteratures, one focusing on the incentives of states and firms to adopt reforms, and a second focusing on the implementation of those reforms with monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. We conclude by highlighting the important questions raised by a clearer integration of these two literatures and identifying several recent studies that begin to answer them.


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