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
How Race and Unemployment Shape Labor Market Opportunities: Additive, Amplified, or Muted Effects? David S. Pedulla

How Race and Unemployment Shape Labor Market Opportunities: Additive, Amplified, or Muted Effects?

Author: David S. Pedulla
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 06/2018

The manner in which social categories combine to produce inequality lies at the heart of scholarship on social stratification. To date, scholars have largely pointed to two primary ways that negatively stereotyped categories may aggregate: 1) additive effects, whereby one category has similar consequences across the other category, and 2) amplified congruence, whereby a secondary category exacerbates the negative effects of the first category. This article develops an alternative potential aggregation pattern—muted congruence—which posits that when individuals evaluate others that occupy multiple social positions about which stereotypes are highly congruent, such as being black and being unemployed, the additional category membership will have limited influence over the ultimate evaluation. Using evidence from a field experiment, where fictitious applications were submitted to real job openings, I examine which aggregation pattern most accurately reflects how race and unemployment shape actual hiring decisions. In line with predictions from the “muted congruence” perspective, the findings indicate that racial discrimination is prominent, but that there are limited additional negative effects of unemployment for African American workers. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for understanding the aggregation of social categories in the production of inequality.

U.S. Employment and Opioids: Is There a Connection? Janet Currie, Jonas Y. Jin, Molly Schnell

U.S. Employment and Opioids: Is There a Connection?

Author: Janet Currie, Jonas Y. Jin, Molly Schnell
Publisher: NBER
Date: 03/2018

This paper uses quarterly county-level data to examine the relationship between opioid prescription rates and employment-to-population ratios from 2006–2014. We first estimate models of the effect of opioid prescription rates on employment-to-population ratios, instrumenting opioid prescriptions for younger ages using opioid prescriptions to the elderly. We also estimate models of the effect of employment-to-population ratios on opioid prescription rates using a shift-share instrument. We find that the estimated effect of opioids on employment-to-population ratios is positive but small for women, but there is no relationship for men. These findings suggest that although they are addictive and dangerous, opioids may allow some women to work who would otherwise leave the labor force. When we examine the effect of employment-to-population ratios on opioid prescriptions, our results are more ambiguous. Overall, our findings suggest that there is no simple causal relationship between economic conditions and the abuse of opioids. Therefore, while improving economic conditions in depressed areas is desirable for many reasons, it is unlikely to curb the opioid epidemic.

State of the Union 2018: Social Networks Adina D. Sterling

State of the Union 2018: Social Networks

Author: Adina D. Sterling
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 03/2018

Over the last half century, as women entered the labor force in large numbers, they have had the opportunity to supplement their kin and friendship networks with coworker networks. It is still the case that women have more kin and friendship ties than men. This gender gap advantages women by providing them with more sources of social support. But men still have more coworker ties than women. This gender gap advantages men by providing them with better access to jobs.

State of the Union 2018: Workplace Sexual Harassment Amy Blackstone, Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen

State of the Union 2018: Workplace Sexual Harassment

Author: Amy Blackstone, Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 03/2018

By age 25 to 26, one in three women and one in seven men experience behavior at work that they define as sexual harassment. Very few women file lawsuits in response to sexual harassment. But women who experience harassment are 6.5 times more likely than women who are not harassed to change jobs within two years.

State of the Union 2018: Occupational Segregation Kim A. Weeden, Mary Newhart, Dafna Gelbgiser

State of the Union 2018: Occupational Segregation

Author: Kim A. Weeden, Mary Newhart, Dafna Gelbgiser
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 03/2018

Nearly half of the women in the labor force would have to move to a different occupation to eliminate all occupational segregation by gender. Gender segregation increased in the 1950s and 1960s, declined quite sharply in the 1970s and 1980s, but stalled starting in the 1990s. If the average annual rates of change since 1970 were to continue, it would take 150 years to reach full integration; if post-1990 rates continued, it would take 330 years.

labor markets - CPI Affiliates

Richard B. Freeman's picture Richard B. Freeman Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics; Director, Science and Engineering Workforce Project, NBER; Faculty Co-Director of the Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School
Harvard University
Hiroshi Ishida's picture Hiroshi Ishida Professor of Sociology, Institute of Social Sciences
University of Tokyo
John Mirowsky's picture John Mirowsky Professor of Sociology, Emeritus
University of Texas at Austin
John Van Reenen's picture John Van Reenen Professor of Applied Economics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jonas Pontusson's picture Jonas Pontusson Professor of Comparative Politics
University of Geneva

Pages

Labor Markets - Other Research

Title Author Media
A Relational Inequality Approach to First- and Second-Generation Immigrant Earnings in German Workplaces Silvia Maja Melzer, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, Reinhard Schunck, Peter Jacobebbinghaus

A Relational Inequality Approach to First- and Second-Generation Immigrant Earnings in German Workplaces

Author: Silvia Maja Melzer, Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, Reinhard Schunck, Peter Jacobebbinghaus
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 09/2018

We conceptualize immigrant incorporation as a categorically driven process and contrast the bright distinctions between first-generation immigrants and natives, with more blurry second-generation contrasts. We analyze linked employer-employee data of a sample of 5,097 employees in 97 large German organizations and focus on first- and second-generation immigrants. We explore how generational status in the labor market and workplace contexts expands and contracts native-immigrant wage inequalities. We find a substantial average first-generation immigrant-native wage gap, which is not explained by individual human capital differences or most aspects of organizational context. In contrast, there is, on average, no second-generation wage gap, but there are substantial variations across workplaces. A series of results confirm predictions from relational inequality theory. For both first- and second-generation immigrants, working in a high-inequality workplace is associated with larger wage gaps. Second-generation immigrants perform better in workplaces where they have intersectional advantages over natives, and for first-generation immigrants collective bargaining protection narrows wage gaps with natives. Consistent with ethnic competition theory, in workplaces with very high shares of immigrant workers, the first-generation–native wage gap is larger. In contrast, increased contact between native Germans and second-generation immigrant coworkers reduces earnings gaps, but only up to a tipping point, after which competition processes reappear and earning gaps widen.

Is Automation Labor-Displacing? Productivity Growth, Employment, and the Labor Share David Autor, Anna Salomons

Is Automation Labor-Displacing? Productivity Growth, Employment, and the Labor Share

Author: David Autor, Anna Salomons
Publisher: NBER
Date: 07/2018

Many technological innovations replace workers with machines, but this capital-labor substitution need not reduce aggregate labor demand because it simultaneously induces four countervailing responses: own-industry output effects; cross-industry input–output effects; between-industry shifts; and final demand effects. We quantify these channels using four decades of harmonized cross-country and industry data, where we measure automation as industry-level movements in total factor productivity (TFP) that are common across countries. We find that automation displaces employment and reduces labor's share of value-added in the industries in which it originates (a direct effect). In the case of employment, these own-industry losses are reversed by indirect gains in customer industries and induced increases in aggregate demand. By contrast, own-industry labor share losses are not recouped elsewhere. Our framework can account for a substantial fraction of the reallocation of employment across industries and the aggregate fall in the labor share over the last three decades. It does not, however, explain why the labor share fell more rapidly during the 2000s.

The Race Between Man and Machine: Implications of Technology for Growth, Factor Shares, and Employment Daron Acemoglu , Pascual Restrepo

The Race Between Man and Machine: Implications of Technology for Growth, Factor Shares, and Employment

Author: Daron Acemoglu , Pascual Restrepo
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 06/2018

We examine the concerns that new technologies will render labor redundant in a framework in which tasks previously performed by labor can be automated and new versions of existing tasks, in which labor has a comparative advantage, can be created. In a static version where capital is fixed and technology is exogenous, automation reduces employment and the labor share, and may even reduce wages, while the creation of new tasks has the opposite effects. Our full model endogenizes capital accumulation and the direction of research toward automation and the creation of new tasks. If the long-run rental rate of capital relative to the wage is sufficiently low, the long-run equilibrium involves automation of all tasks. Otherwise, there exists a stable balanced growth path in which the two types of innovations go hand-in-hand. Stability is a consequence of the fact that automation reduces the cost of producing using labor, and thus discourages further automation and encourages the creation of new tasks. In an extension with heterogeneous skills, we show that inequality increases during transitions driven both by faster automation and the introduction of new tasks, and characterize the conditions under which inequality stabilizes in the long run.

Marriage, Family Structure, and Maternal Employment Trajectories Christine Percheski

Marriage, Family Structure, and Maternal Employment Trajectories

Author: Christine Percheski
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 03/2018

Previous studies of maternal employment have focused on marital status differences, but the rise in nonmarital cohabiting parenthood problematizes the simple dichotomy between married and unmarried mothers. Theory and previous research yield mixed predictions as to whether cohabiting mothers’ employment will more closely resemble that of married mothers or lone unmarried mothers. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, I examine how maternal employment varies across family structures (married parents, cohabiting unmarried parents, and lone unmarried mothers) in the five years after a birth for mothers living in urban areas in the United States. Descriptive statistics show few differences in maternal employment patterns by family structure. Controlling for human capital, however, I find that cohabiting mothers return to work earlier and work more than married mothers. Cohabiting mothers and lone mothers show very similar employment patterns. Additionally, cohabiting mothers who later marry have employment trajectories that are similar to married mothers, whereas married mothers who divorce increase their employment hours. Family characteristics, partner characteristics, and gender attitudes do not explain employment differences between married and cohabiting mothers. I speculate that cohabiting mothers work more than married mothers as a hedge against economic deprivation given high union dissolution rates for cohabiting couples.

Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, Devah Pager, Eiko Strader

Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from One of America’s Largest Employers

Author: Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, Devah Pager, Eiko Strader
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 03/2018

This paper is one of the first systematic assessments of ex-felons’ workplace performance. Using FOIA-requested data from the Department of Defense, we follow 1.3 million ex-offender and non-offender enlistees in the US military from 2002 to 2009. Those with a felony background show no difference in attrition rates due to poor performance compared to those without criminal records. Moreover, ex-felons are promoted more quickly and to higher ranks than other enlistees. At the same time, we find that ex-felons are slightly more likely to commit a legal offense in the military system (5 percent of non-felons compared to 6.6 percent of ex-felons). We also find a higher rate of work-related deaths among the ex-felon sample; closer evaluation of limited data suggests this may be driven by ex-felons being assigned more often to combat positions. Overall, our study shows that the military’s criminal history screening process can result in successful employment outcomes for ex-felons, at least in terms of job mobility and reliability, to the mutual benefit of employer and employee. An important question arising from this analysis is whether the military’s “whole person” review can apply successfully to the civilian sector.