Labor Markets

  • Michael Hout
  • Gregory Acs
  • David Card
  • Jesse Rothstein

Leaders: Gregory Acs, David Card, Michael Hout, Jesse Rothstein

The labor market was of course hit very heavily by the Great Recession, as evidenced by (a) the slow recovery of the unemployment rate, (b) and the even slower recovery of the long-term unemployment rate and the prime-age employment ratio (defined as the ratio of employed 25-54 year-olds to the population of that same age). This “jobs problem,” which is especially prominent among low-skill workers, has led to a sharp rise in the number of poor households without any working adults. It also underlies, in part, the sharp increase in the number of disability insurance claims and awards, which in turn has further reduced the supply of labor among low-skilled individuals.

If the first type of “jobs problem” is that there still are not enough of them, the second is that the jobs that are available do not always provide the requisite hours, wages, or security that are needed for a sure pathway out of poverty. As a result, low-skill individuals are not just working less but, even when they are working, there is no guarantee that their jobs will lift them and their families out of poverty. The Labor Markets RG is tasked with conducting research on these and related problems and exploiting administrative and other data to assess possible policy responses to them. We list below a few examples of the work being carried out in this group.

Long-run effects of work incentives: As nonworking poverty increases, the U.S. might well want to turn to new types of work incentive programs. Have these programs worked elsewhere?

Minimum wages and poverty: Throughout the west coast, there are a host of minimum wage “experiments” underway, experiments that have the potential to reset the low-wage labor market in quite fundamental ways. How are these experiments playing out?

Labor Markets - CPI Research

Title Author Media
Promoting Social and Economic Mobility in Washington, DC Gregory Acs, Lauren Eyster, Jonathan Schwabish

Promoting Social and Economic Mobility in Washington, DC

Author: Gregory Acs, Lauren Eyster, Jonathan Schwabish
Publisher: The Urban Institute
Date: 04/2015

As Mayor Bowser settles into her office, she leads a city that is growing more prosperous. Yet too many DC residents are not sharing in that prosperity. Since the last recession began in 2007, median income in DC has grown by three times the national average, reaching nearly $61,000 in 2013. Yet DC’s unemployment rate persistently remains about 1 percentage point higher than in the nation as a whole. Removing barriers to mobility and creating meaningful opportunities for all DC residents to prosper require various strategies. DC’s new mayor should adopt strategies and policies that can help city residents who struggle the most with becoming and staying connected to the labor market.

Teacher Quality Policy When Supply Matters Jesse Rothstein

Teacher Quality Policy When Supply Matters

Author: Jesse Rothstein
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 01/2015

Teacher contracts that condition pay and retention on demonstrated performance can improve selection into and out of teaching. I study alternative contracts in a simulated teacher labor market that incorporates dynamic self-selection and Bayesian learning. Bonus policies create only modest incentives and thus have small effects on selection. Reductions in tenure rates can have larger effects, but must be accompanied by substantial salary increases; elimination of tenure confers little additional benefit unless firing rates are extremely high. Benefits of both bonus and tenure policies exceed costs, though optimal policies are sensitive to labor market parameters about which little is known.

Not Enough Work: Access to Full-Time Jobs with Decent Pay and Benefits Varies by Race/Ethnicity and Place of Residence Marybeth J. Mattingly, Justin R. Young

Not Enough Work: Access to Full-Time Jobs with Decent Pay and Benefits Varies by Race/Ethnicity and Place of Residence

Author: Marybeth J. Mattingly, Justin R. Young
Publisher: National Agricultural & Rural Development Policy Center
Date: 12/2014

In this brief, we consider differences across rural and urban America in each of these measures, given the very different economic conditions that prevail in rural America, where higher paying jobs and those with employer-provided health insurance areless common (McLaughlin and Coleman-Jensen 2008), nonstandard work is more ubiquitous (McCrate 2011), and the best-educated and young often move away (Carr and Kefalas 2010: Hollowing Out the Middle). Further, we break down these differences by both race and gender, as prior research suggests racial-ethnic differences in underemployment (Glauber 2013; Sum and Khatiwada 2010; Young2012), and we know from the literature that different factors mayinfluence women and men’s employment (see, for example, Hollister 2011). We use data from the 2013 Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey—the most currently available data for assessing labor force dynamics across the country in this way.

Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts, Zhichun Jenny Ying

Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment

Author: Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts, Zhichun Jenny Ying
Publisher: Quarterly Journal of Economics
Date: 11/2014

A rising share of employees now regularly engage in working from home (WFH), but there are concerns this can lead to “shirking from home.” We report the results of a WFH experiment at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency. Call center employees who volunteered to WFH were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for nine months. Home working led to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and their attrition rate halved, but their promotion rate conditional on performance fell. Due to the success of the experiment, Ctrip rolled out the option to WFH to the whole firm and allowed the experimental employees to reselect between the home and office. Interestingly, over half of them switched, which led to the gains from WFH almost doubling to 22%. This highlights the benefits of learning and selection effects when adopting modern management practices like WFH.

What Will My Account Really Be Worth? An Experiment on Exponential Growth Bias and Retirement Saving Gopi Shah Goda, Colleen Flaherty Manchester, Aaron Sojourner

What Will My Account Really Be Worth? An Experiment on Exponential Growth Bias and Retirement Saving

Author: Gopi Shah Goda, Colleen Flaherty Manchester, Aaron Sojourner
Publisher: Journal of Public Economics
Date: 11/2014

Recent findings on limited financial literacy and exponential growth bias suggest saving decisions may not be optimal because such decisions require an accurate understanding of how current contributions can translate into income in retirement. This study uses a large-scale field experiment to measure how a low-cost, direct-mail intervention designed to inform subjects about this relationship affects their saving behavior. Using administrative data prior to and following the intervention, we measure its effect on participation and the level of contributions in retirement saving accounts. Those sent income projections along with enrollment information were more likely to change contribution levels and increase annual contributions relative to the control group. Among those who made a change in contribution, the increase in annual contributions was approximately $1,150. Results from a follow-up survey corroborate these findings and show heterogeneous effects of the intervention by rational and behavioral factors known to affect saving. Finally, we find evidence of behavioral influences on decision-making in that the assumptions used to generate the projections influence the saving response.

labor markets - CPI Affiliates

Kevin T. Leicht's picture Kevin T. Leicht Sociology Department Head of Sociology; Professor of LAS Global Studies
The University of Iowa
Markus Gangl's picture Markus Gangl Professor of Sociology
Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main
Marlis Buchmann Professor, Soziologisches Institut
University of Zurich
Marta Tienda's picture Marta Tienda Professor, Maurice P. During '22 Professor in Demographic Studies; Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs; Director, Program in Latino Studies
Princeton University
Martina Morris's picture Martina Morris Professor of Sociology and Statistics
University of Washington - Seattle

Pages

Labor Markets - Other Research

Title Author Media
Race, Self-Selection, and the Job Search Process Devah Pager, David S. Pedulla

Race, Self-Selection, and the Job Search Process

Author: Devah Pager, David S. Pedulla
Publisher: American Journal of Sociology
Date: 01/2015

While existing research has documented persistent barriers facing African-American job seekers, far less research has questioned how job seekers respond to this reality. Do minorities self-select into particular segments of the labor market to avoid discrimination? Such questions have remained unanswered due to the lack of data available on the positions to which job seekers apply. Drawing on two original data sets with application-specific information, we find little evidence that blacks target or avoid particular job types. Rather, blacks cast a wider net in their search than similarly situated whites, including a greater range of occupational categories and characteristics in their pool of job applications. Additionally, we show that perceptions of discrimination are associated with increased search breadth, suggesting that broad search among African-Americans represents an adaptation to labor market discrimination. Together these findings provide novel evidence on the role of race and self-selection in the job search process.

Is It Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged Ben Backes, Harry J Holzer, Erin Dunlop Velez

Is It Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged

Author: Ben Backes, Harry J Holzer, Erin Dunlop Velez
Publisher: IZA Journal of Labor Policy
Date: 01/2015

In this paper we examine a range of postsecondary education and labor market outcomes, with a particular focus on minorities and/or disadvantaged workers. We use administrative data from the state of Florida, where postsecondary student records have been linked to UI earnings data and also to secondary education records. Our main findings can be summarized as follows: 1) Gaps in secondary school achievement can account for a large portion of the variation in postsecondary attainment and labor market outcomes between the disadvantaged and other students, but meaningful gaps also exist within achievement groups, and 2) Earnings of the disadvantaged are hurt by low completion rates in postsecondary programs, poor performance during college, and not choosing high-earning fields. In particular, significant labor market premia can be earned in a variety of more technical certificate and Associate (AA) programs, even for those with weak earlier academic performance, but instead many disadvantaged (and other) students choose general humanities programs at the AA (and even the BA level) with low completion rates and low compensation afterwards. A range of policies and practices might be used to improve student choices as well as their completion rates and earnings.

Household Wealth Trends in the United States, 1962-2013: What Happened Over the Great Recession? Edward N. Wolff

Household Wealth Trends in the United States, 1962-2013: What Happened Over the Great Recession?

Author: Edward N. Wolff
Publisher: The National Bureau of Economic Research
Date: 12/2014

Asset prices plunged between 2007 and 2010 but then rebounded from 2010 to 2013. The most telling finding is that median wealth plummeted by 44 percent over years 2007 to 2010, almost double the drop in housing prices. The inequality of net worth, after almost two decades of little movement, was also up sharply. Relative indebtedness expanded, particularly for the middle class, though the proximate causes were declining net worth and income rather than an increase in absolute indebtedness. The sharp fall in median net worth and the rise in overall wealth inequality over these years are traceable primarily to the high leverage of middle class families and the high share of homes in their portfolio. The racial and ethnic disparity in wealth also widened considerably. Households under age 45 saw their relative and absolute wealth declined sharply. Rather remarkably, there was virtually no change in median wealth from 2010 to 2013 despite the rebound in asset prices. The proximate cause was the high dissavings of the middle class, though their debt continued to fall. Wealth inequality and the racial and ethnic wealth gap also remained largely unchanged, though there was some recovery of net worth for young households.

Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality, and the Great Recession Fabian T. Pfeffer, Sheldon Danziger, Robert F. Schoeni

Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality, and the Great Recession

Author: Fabian T. Pfeffer, Sheldon Danziger, Robert F. Schoeni
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 05/2014

This research brief assesses two questions about the extent to which the Great Recession altered the level and distribution of wealth through 2013--the most recent year of data available on wealth held by American families. 1. By how much did wealth levels decline during the Great Recession, and by how much did they recover through 2013? 2. Did wealth inequality increase, decrease, or remain steady during the Great Recession?

Overwork and the Slow Convergence in the Gender Gap in Wages Youngjoo Cha, Kim A. Weeden

Overwork and the Slow Convergence in the Gender Gap in Wages

Author: Youngjoo Cha, Kim A. Weeden
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date: 04/2014

Despite rapid changes in women’s educational attainment and continuous labor force experience, convergence in the gender gap in wages slowed in the 1990s and stalled in the 2000s. Using CPS data from 1979 to 2009, we show that convergence in the gender gap in hourly pay over these three decades was attenuated by the increasing prevalence of “overwork” (defined as working 50 or more hours per week) and the rising hourly wage returns to overwork. Because a greater proportion of men engage in overwork, these changes raised men’s wages relative to women’s and exacerbated the gender wage gap by an estimated 10 percent of the total wage gap. This overwork effect was sufficiently large to offset the wage-equalizing effects of the narrowing gender gap in educational attainment and other forms of human capital. The overwork effect on trends in the gender gap in wages was most pronounced in professional and managerial occupations, where long work hours are especially common and the norm of overwork is deeply embedded in organizational practices and occupational cultures. These results illustrate how new ways of organizing work can perpetuate old forms of gender inequality.

Labor Markets - Multimedia

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