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
Trade Induced Technical Change? The Impact of Chinese Imports on innovation, IT and Productivity Nicholas Bloom, Mirko Draca, John Van Reenen

Trade Induced Technical Change? The Impact of Chinese Imports on innovation, IT and Productivity

Author: Nicholas Bloom, Mirko Draca, John Van Reenen
Publisher: Review of Economic Studies
Date: 01/2016

We examine the impact of Chinese import competition on broad measures of technical change - patenting, IT and TFP – using new panel data across twelve European countries from 1996-2007. In particular, we establish that the absolute volume of innovation increases within the firms most affected by Chinese imports in their output markets. We correct for endogeneity using the removal of product-specific quotas following China's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. Chinese import competition led to increased technical change within firms and reallocated employment between firms towards more technologically advanced firms. These within and between effects were about equal in magnitude, and account for 15% of European technology upgrading over 2000-2007 (and even more when we allow for offshoring to China). Rising Chinese import competition also led to falls in employment and the share of unskilled workers. In contrast to low-wage nations like China, developed countries imports had no significant effect on innovation.

Money and Morale: Growing Inequality Affects How Americans View Themselves and Others Michael Hout

Money and Morale: Growing Inequality Affects How Americans View Themselves and Others

Author: Michael Hout
Publisher: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Date: 01/2016

Dozens of past studies document how affluent people feel somewhat better about life than middle-class people feel and much better than poor people do. New analyses of the General Social Surveys from 1974 to 2012 address questions in the literature regarding aggregate responses to hard times, whether the income-class relationship is linear or not, and whether inequality affects happiness. General happiness dropped significantly during the Great Recession, suggesting that the income-happiness relationship might also exist at the macro level. People with extremely low incomes are not as unhappy as a linear model expects, but there is no evidence of a threshold beyond which personal happiness stops increasing. Comparing happiness over the long term, the affluent were about as happy in 2012 as they were in the 1970s, but the poor were much less happy. Consequently, the gross happiness gap by income was about 30 percent bigger in 2012 than it was in the 1970s. A multivariate model shows that the net effect of income on happiness also increased significantly over time.

Employment Insecurity among the Working Poor Carl Gershenson, Matthew Desmond

Employment Insecurity among the Working Poor

Author: Carl Gershenson, Matthew Desmond
Publisher: Social Problems
Date: 01/2016

While social scientists have documented severe consequences of job loss, scant research investigates why workers lose their jobs. We explore the role of housing insecurity in actuating employment insecurity, investigating if workers who involuntarily lose their homes subsequently involuntarily lose their jobs. Analyzing novel survey data of predominately low-income working renters, we find the likelihood of being laid off to be between 11 and 22 percentage points higher for workers who experienced a preceding forced move, compared to observationally identical workers who did not. Our findings suggest that initiatives promoting housing stability could promote employment stability.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? The Safety Net and Poverty in the Great Recession Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? The Safety Net and Poverty in the Great Recession

Author: Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes
Publisher: Journal of Labor Economics
Date: 01/2016

Much attention has been given to the large increases in safety net spending during the Great Recession. We examine the relationship between poverty, the safety net, and business cycles historically and test whether there has been a significant change in this relationship. We find that post-welfare reform, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families did not respond during the Great Recession and extreme poverty is more cyclical than in prior recessions. Food Stamps and Unemployment Insurance are providing more protection--or no less protection--in the Great Recession, and there is some evidence of less cyclicality for 100% poverty.

Wage Adjustment in the Great Recession and Other Downturns: Evidence from the United States and Great Britain Michael Elsby, Donggyun Shin, Gary Solon

Wage Adjustment in the Great Recession and Other Downturns: Evidence from the United States and Great Britain

Author: Michael Elsby, Donggyun Shin, Gary Solon
Publisher: Journal of Labor Economics
Date: 01/2016

Using 1979-2012 CPS data for the United States and 1975-2012 NES data for Great Britain, we study wage behavior in both countries, with particular attention to the Great Recession. Real wages are procyclical in both countries, but the procyclicality of real wages varies across recessions, and does so differently between the two countries, in ways that defy simple explanations. We devote particular attention to the hypothesis that downward nominal wage rigidity plays an important role in cyclical employment and unemployment fluctuations. We conclude that downward wage rigidity may be less binding and have lesser allocative consequences than is often supposed.

labor markets - CPI Affiliates

Peter Hedstrom's picture Peter Hedstrom Director, Institute for Analytical Sociology
Linköping University
Robert H. Topel's picture Robert H. Topel Isidore Brown and Gladys J. Brown Professor in Urban and Labor Economics; Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
The University of Chicago
Steven J. Davis's picture Steven J. Davis William H. Abbott Professor of International Business and Economics; Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
The University of Chicago
Tali Kristal's picture Tali Kristal Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Haifa
Toby L. Parcel's picture Toby L. Parcel Professor of Sociology
North Carolina State University

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Labor Markets - Other Research

Title Author Media
Social Mobility Among Second-Generation Latinos Van C. Tran

Social Mobility Among Second-Generation Latinos

Author: Van C. Tran
Publisher: Contexts
Date: 04/2016

New data shows that Latinos weathered the recession well and are poised to seize opportunities for further social mobility.

A Most Egalitarian Profession: Pharmacy and the Evolution of a Family-Friendly Occupation Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz

A Most Egalitarian Profession: Pharmacy and the Evolution of a Family-Friendly Occupation

Author: Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz
Publisher: Journal of Labor Economics
Date: 04/2016

Pharmacy today is a highly remunerated female-majority profession with a small gender earnings gap and low earnings dispersion. Using extensive surveys of pharmacists, as well as the US Census, American Community Surveys, and Current Population Surveys, we explore the gender earnings gap, penalty to part-time work, demographics of pharmacists relative to other college graduates, and evolution of the profession during the last half-century. Technological changes increasing substitutability among pharmacists, growth of pharmacy employment in retail chains and hospitals, and related decline of independent pharmacies reduced the penalty to part-time work and contribute to the narrow gender earnings gap in pharmacy.

The Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market: An Experimental Study David J. Deming , Noam Yuchtman , Amira Abulafi , Claudia Goldin , Lawrence F. Katz

The Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market: An Experimental Study

Author: David J. Deming , Noam Yuchtman , Amira Abulafi , Claudia Goldin , Lawrence F. Katz
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 03/2016

We study employers' perceptions of the value of postsecondary degrees using a field experiment. We randomly assign the sector and selectivity of institutions to fictitious resumes and apply to real vacancy postings for business and health jobs on a large online job board. We find that a business bachelor's degree from a for-profit online institution is 22 percent less likely to receive a callback than one from a nonselective public institution. In applications to health jobs, we find that for-profit credentials receive fewer callbacks unless the job requires an external quality indicator such as an occupational license.

The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations Francine D. Blau, Lawrence M. Kahn

The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations

Author: Francine D. Blau, Lawrence M. Kahn
Publisher: Journal of Economic Literature
Date: 01/2016

Using PSID microdata over the 1980-2010, we provide new empirical evidence on the extent of and trends in the gender wage gap, which declined considerably over this period. By 2010, conventional human capital variables taken together explained little of the gender wage gap, while gender differences in occupation and industry continued to be important. Moreover, the gender pay gap declined much more slowly at the top of the wage distribution that at the middle or the bottom and by 2010 was noticeably higher at the top. We then survey the literature to identify what has been learned about the explanations for the gap. We conclude that many of the traditional explanations continue to have salience. Although human capital factors are now relatively unimportant in the aggregate, women’s work force interruptions and shorter hours remain significant in high skilled occupations, possibly due to compensating differentials. Gender differences in occupations and industries, as well as differences in gender roles and the gender division of labor remain important, and research based on experimental evidence strongly suggests that discrimination cannot be discounted. Psychological attributes or noncognitive skills comprise one of the newer explanations for gender differences in outcomes. Our effort to assess the quantitative evidence on the importance of these factors suggests that they account for a small to moderate portion of the gender pay gap, considerably smaller than say occupation and industry effects, though they appear to modestly contribute to these differences.

Car and Home Ownership Among Low-Income Families in the Great Recession Laurel Sariscsany

Car and Home Ownership Among Low-Income Families in the Great Recession

Author: Laurel Sariscsany
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 12/2015

In a recent paper, Columbia University's Valentina Duque, Natasha Pilkauskas, and Irwin Garkfinkel analyzed the association between the Great Recession and assets among families with children. The study revealed two key findings. First, the recession led to declines in home and car ownership among families of young children. And second, more vulnerable groups — single, cohabiting, Black, and Hispanic families — were most likely to feel these effects, with married or White mothers more likely to be protected.

Labor Markets - Multimedia

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