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
Child Poverty, the Great Recession, and the Social Safety Net in the United States Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes, Elira Kuka

Child Poverty, the Great Recession, and the Social Safety Net in the United States

Author: Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes, Elira Kuka
Publisher: NBER
Date: 09/2016

In this paper, we comprehensively examine the effects of the Great Recession on child poverty, with particular attention to the role of the social safety net in mitigating the adverse effects of shocks to earnings and income. Using a state panel data model and data for 2000 to 2014, we estimate the relationship between the business cycle and child poverty, and we examine how and to what extent the safety net is providing protection to at-risk children. We find compelling evidence that the safety net provides protection; that is, the cyclicality of after-tax-and-transfer child poverty is significantly attenuated relative to the cyclicality of private income poverty. We also find that the protective effect of the safety net is not similar across demographic groups, and that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds, such as those living with non-Hispanic black or Hispanic, single, or particularly immigrant household heads-or immigrant spouses, experience larger poverty cyclicality than non-Hispanic white, married, or native household heads with native spouses. Our findings hold across a host of choices for how to define poverty. These include measures based on absolute thresholds or more relative thresholds. They also hold for measures of resources that include not only cash and near cash transfers net of taxes but also several measures of medical benefits.

The Great Recession and the Labor Market Beth Red Bird, David B. Grusky

The Great Recession and the Labor Market

Author: Beth Red Bird, David B. Grusky
Publisher: Annual Review of Sociology
Date: 07/2016

We review the main labor market trends during the Great Recession, the ways in which those trends have been organized into narratives about the Great Recession, the effects of the Great Recession on individual-level behaviors and decisions, the causes of the key labor market dysfunctions of the Great Recession, and the most important economic and noneconomic forces that are likely to generate recessions and other labor market problems in the future.

The Effects of Job Insecurity on Health Care Utilization: Findings from a Panel of U.S. Workers Rita Hamad , Sepideh Modrek, Mark R. Cullen

The Effects of Job Insecurity on Health Care Utilization: Findings from a Panel of U.S. Workers

Author: Rita Hamad , Sepideh Modrek, Mark R. Cullen
Publisher: Health Services Research
Date: 06/2016

Objective

To examine the impacts of job insecurity during the recession of 2007–2009 on health care utilization among a panel of U.S. employees.

Data Sources/Study Setting

Linked administrative and claims datasets on a panel of continuously employed, continuously insured individuals at a large multisite manufacturing firm that experienced widespread layoffs (N = 9,486).

Study Design

We employed segmented regressions to examine temporal discontinuities in utilization during 2006–2012. To assess the effects of job insecurity, we compared individuals at high- and low-layoff plants. Because the dataset includes multiple observations for each individual, we included individual-level fixed effects.

Principal Findings

We found discontinuous increases in outpatient (3.5 visits/month/10,000 individuals, p = .002) and emergency (0.4 visits/month/10,000 individuals, p = .05) utilization in the panel of all employees. Compared with individuals at low-layoff plants, individuals at high-layoff plants decreased outpatient utilization (−4.0 visits/month/10,000 individuals, p = .008), suggesting foregone preventive care, with a marginally significant increase in emergency utilization (0.4 visits/month/10,000 individuals, p = .08).

Conclusions

These results suggest changes in health care utilization and potentially adverse impacts on employee health in response to job insecurity during the latest recession. This study contributes to our understanding of the impacts of economic crises on the health of the U.S. working population.

Long-Run Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net Hilary Hoynes, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach , Douglas Almond

Long-Run Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net

Author: Hilary Hoynes, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach , Douglas Almond
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 04/2016

We examine the impact of a positive and policy-driven change in economic resources available in utero and during childhood. We focus on the introduction of the Food Stamp Program, which was rolled out across counties between 1961 and 1975. We use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to assemble unique data linking family background and county of residence in early childhood to adult health and economic outcomes. Our findings indicate access to food stamps in childhood leads to a significant reduction in the incidence of metabolic syndrome and, for women, an increase in economic self-sufficiency.

Penalized or Protected? Gender and the Consequences of Nonstandard and Mismatched Employment Histories David S. Pedulla

Penalized or Protected? Gender and the Consequences of Nonstandard and Mismatched Employment Histories

Author: David S. Pedulla
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date: 04/2016

Millions of workers are employed in positions that deviate from the full-time, standard employment relationship or work in jobs that are mismatched with their skills, education, or experience. Yet, little is known about how employers evaluate workers who have experienced these employment arrangements, limiting our knowledge about how part-time work, temporary agency employment, and skills underutilization affect workers’ labor market opportunities. Drawing on original field and survey experiment data, I examine three questions: (1) What are the consequences of having a nonstandard or mismatched employment history for workers’ labor market opportunities? (2) Are the effects of nonstandard or mismatched employment histories different for men and women? and (3) What are the mechanisms linking nonstandard or mismatched employment histories to labor market outcomes? The field experiment shows that skills underutilization is as scarring for workers as a year of unemployment, but that there are limited penalties for workers with histories of temporary agency employment. Additionally, although men are penalized for part-time employment histories, women face no penalty for part-time work. The survey experiment reveals that employers’ perceptions of workers’ competence and commitment mediate these effects. These findings shed light on the consequences of changing employment relations for the distribution of labor market opportunities in the “new economy.”

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
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
Julie E. Brines Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Washington
Kevin Lang's picture Kevin Lang Professor of Economics; Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
Boston University

Pages

Labor Markets - Other Research

Title Author Media
The Effect of Fertility on Mothers' Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries Daniel Aaronson, Rajeev Dehejia, Andrew Jordan, Cristian Pop-Eleches, Cyrus Samii, Karl Schulze

The Effect of Fertility on Mothers' Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries

Author: Daniel Aaronson, Rajeev Dehejia, Andrew Jordan, Cristian Pop-Eleches, Cyrus Samii, Karl Schulze
Publisher: NBER
Date: 08/2017

This paper documents the evolving impact of childbearing on the work activity of mothers. Based on a compiled dataset of 441 censuses and surveys between 1787 and 2015, representing 103 countries and 48.4 million mothers, we document three main findings: (1) the effect of fertility on labor supply is small and typically indistinguishable from zero at low levels of development and economically large and negative at higher levels of development; (2) this negative gradient is remarkably consistent across histories of currently developed countries and contemporary cross-sections of countries; and (3) the results are strikingly robust to identification strategies, model specification, data construction, and rescaling. We explain our results within a standard labor-leisure model and attribute the negative labor supply gradient to changes in the sectoral and occupational structure of female jobs as countries develop.

People Versus Machines: The Impact of Minimum Wages on Automatable Jobs Grace Lordan, David Neumark

People Versus Machines: The Impact of Minimum Wages on Automatable Jobs

Author: Grace Lordan, David Neumark
Publisher:
Date: 08/2017

We study the effect of minimum wage increases on employment in automatable jobs – jobs in which employers may find it easier to substitute machines for people – focusing on low-skilled workers from whom such substitution may be spurred by minimum wage increases. Based on CPS data from 1980-2015, we find that increasing the minimum wage decreases significantly the share of automatable employment held by low-skilled workers, and increases the likelihood that low-skilled workers in automatable jobs become unemployed. The average effects mask significant heterogeneity by industry and demographic group, including substantive adverse effects for older, low-skilled workers in manufacturing. The findings imply that groups often ignored in the minimum wage literature are in fact quite vulnerable to employment changes and job loss because of automation following a minimum wage increase.

Indirect Inference with Importance Sampling: An Application to Women's Wage Growth Robert M. Sauer, Christopher R. Taber

Indirect Inference with Importance Sampling: An Application to Women's Wage Growth

Author: Robert M. Sauer, Christopher R. Taber
Publisher: NBER
Date: 08/2017

This paper has two main parts. In the first, we describe a method that smooths the objective function in a general class of indirect inference models. Our smoothing procedure makes use of importance sampling weights in estimation of the auxiliary model on simulated data. The importance sampling weights are constructed from likelihood contributions implied by the structural model. Since this approach does not require transformations of endogenous variables in the structural model, we avoid the potential approximation errors that may arise in other smoothing approaches for indirect inference. We show that our alternative smoothing method yields consistent estimates. The second part of the paper applies the method to estimating the effect of women’s fertility on their human capital accumulation. We find that the curvature in the wage profile is determined primarily by curvature in the human capital accumulation function as a function of previous human capital, as opposed to being driven primarily by age. We also find a modest effect of fertility induced nonemployment spells on human capital accumulation. We estimate that the difference in wages among prime age women would be approximately 3% higher if the relationship between fertility and working were eliminated.

Choice of Majors: Are Women Really Different from Men? Adriana D. Kugler, Catherine H. Tinsley, Olga Ukhaneva

Choice of Majors: Are Women Really Different from Men?

Author: Adriana D. Kugler, Catherine H. Tinsley, Olga Ukhaneva
Publisher: NBER
Date: 08/2017

Recent work suggests that women are more responsive to negative feedback than men in certain environments. We examine whether negative feedback in the form of relatively low grades in major-related classes explains gender differences in the final majors undergraduates choose. We use unique administrative data from a large private university on the East Coast from 2009-2016 to test whether women are more sensitive to grades than men, and whether the gender composition of major-related classes affects major changes. We also control for other factors that may affect a student's final major including: high school student performance, gender of faculty, and economic returns of majors. Finally, we examine how students' decisions are affected by external cues that signal STEM fields as masculine. The results show that high school academic preparation, faculty gender composition, and major returns have little effect on major switching behaviors, and that women and men are equally likely to change their major in response to poor grades in major-related courses. Moreover, women in male-dominated majors do not exhibit different patterns of switching behaviors relative to their male colleagues. Women are, however, more likely to switch out of male-dominated STEM majors in response to poor performance compared to men. Therefore, we find that it takes multiple signals of lack of fit into a major (low grades, gender composition of class, and external stereotyping signals) to impel female students to switch majors.

Women, Work, and Family Francine D. Blau, Anne E. Winkler

Women, Work, and Family

Author: Francine D. Blau, Anne E. Winkler
Publisher: NBER
Date: 08/2017

This chapter focuses on women, work, and family, with a particular focus on differences by educational attainment. First, we review long-term trends regarding family structure, participation in the labor market, and time spent in household production, including time with children. In looking at family, we focus on mothers with children. Next we examine key challenges faced by mothers as they seek to combine motherhood and paid work: workforce interruptions associated with childbearing, the impact of home and family responsibilities, and constraints posed by workplace culture. We also consider the role that gendered norms play in shaping outcomes for mothers. We conclude by discussing policies that have the potential to increase gender equality in the workplace and mitigate the considerable conflicts faced by many women as they seek to balance work and family.