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
The Social Safety Net and the Great Recession Robert A. Moffitt

The Social Safety Net and the Great Recession

Author: Robert A. Moffitt
Publisher:
Date: 10/2012

As the economic downturn wears on, the debate about U.S. spending on the safety net has become increasingly rancorous. Indeed, former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich famously referred to Barack Obama as "the food stamp president" in the early-2012 campaign trail. The purpose of this recession brief is to step back from the rancor and describe in straightforward fashion how spending on the safety net has responded to the Great Recession.

Charitable Giving and the Great Recession Rob Reich, Christopher Wimer

Charitable Giving and the Great Recession

Author: Rob Reich, Christopher Wimer
Publisher:
Date: 10/2012

Americans have long been, and continue to be, a famously charitable people. Whereas Europeans have well-developed and comprehensive welfare states, the United States has always relied more on private charity to support a multitude of causes, including aid and assistance to the poor.

Consumption and the Great Recession Luigi Pistaferri, Ivaylo Petev

Consumption and the Great Recession

Author: Luigi Pistaferri, Ivaylo Petev
Publisher:
Date: 10/2012

The particular trauma of severe downturns is that declining consumer spending, itself a reaction to the economy's contraction, also undermines the prospects for recovery. Consumption is, in other words, a fundamental determinant of business cycles - a kind of litmus test of economic health. But it's not just an important determinant of future economic performance. We also look to consumption as an omnibus measure of the set of socioeconomic conditions that underlie consumer behavior, such as job opportunities, price fluctuations, access to credit, and financial security. In this recession brief, we offer an interpretation of recent consumption data in order to determine the extent of the economic damage and its unequal distribution across the American populace.

Family, the Lifecourse, and the Great Recession S. Philip Morgan, Erin Cumberworth, Christopher Wimer

Family, the Lifecourse, and the Great Recession

Author: S. Philip Morgan, Erin Cumberworth, Christopher Wimer
Publisher:
Date: 10/2012

The family is an important setting within which the Great Recession can exert its influence. Although the downturn directly affected many workers by reducing their earnings or forcing them into unemployment, it affected others indirectly by changing their living arrangements or family life. Further, the ways in which families are formed or broken up may be affected by the Great Recession, as it can alter the perceived costs and benefits of various family-relevant behaviors. Amid the turmoil and economic upheaval in the wider economy, individuals and families go about their lives, deciding to get married, suffering through breakups and divorces, planning families, and sorting out their living arrangements. The recession could have major effects on all of these family processes.

Health, Mental Health, and the Great Recession Sarah Burgard

Health, Mental Health, and the Great Recession

Author: Sarah Burgard
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 10/2012

Are we experiencing a "health recession"? While many think the impacts of the Great Recession are mostly confined to the labor and housing markets, the recession may also have taken a toll on health and wellbeing. In assessing such health impacts, it's important to distinguish between direct and indirect effects, the former pertaining to the health of those who are directly impacted by recession-induced negative events, such as unemployment, and the latter pertaining to the more diffuse behavioral changes that a recession may bring about among the general population. For example, the recession might reduce the amount of discretionary driving (to save on fuel costs), with the indirect result being fewer accidents.

Labor Markets - Other Research

Title Author Media
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?

The Great Recession and High-Frequency Spanking Chloe Anderson, Christopher Wimer

The Great Recession and High-Frequency Spanking

Author: Chloe Anderson, Christopher Wimer
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 03/2014

In a new paper, the Columbia Population Research Center’s Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, William Schneider, and Jane Waldfogel offer new insight into the connection between economic distress and child well-being. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), the authors investigate whether the Great Recession was associated with increased use of high-frequency maternal spanking, which previous studies have shown elevates the risk of child abuse.

Multiple Program Participation and the SNAP Program Robert A. Moffitt

Multiple Program Participation and the SNAP Program

Author: Robert A. Moffitt
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 02/2014

Receipt of benefits from other traditional transfer programs by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) families is common, with 76 percent of those families receiving at least one other major benefit of that type, excluding Medicaid, in 2008. However, over half of these only received one other benefit and only a very small fraction received more than two others. Over the long-term, multiple benefit receipt among SNAP families has been falling, a result of declines in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) caseload offsetting rises in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) caseloads. Finally, this analysis shows that high marginal tax rates generated by multiple program receipt are relevant for only a small portion of the TANF caseload, namely, the portion of the caseload that is nondisabled, nonelderly, and have earnings in the phaseout regions of the programs where marginal tax rates are high. The vast majority of SNAP families are not affected and, indeed, most have sufficiently low earnings that they face negative cumulative marginal tax rates.

Public Transfers and Material Hardship in the Great Recession Christopher Wimer

Public Transfers and Material Hardship in the Great Recession

Author: Christopher Wimer
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 12/2013

In a new paper, the Columbia Population Research Center’s Natasha V. Pilkauskas, Janet M. Currie, and Irwin Garfinkel explore the material hardships experienced by disadvantaged families and how well government programs were able to staunch the bleeding. The results indicate that the recession did indeed lead to spikes in material hardships, but that things would have been quite a bit worse if not for the response of the social safety net.

State Fiscal Policy during the Great Recession Andrea Louise Campbell, Michael W. Sances

State Fiscal Policy during the Great Recession

Author: Andrea Louise Campbell, Michael W. Sances
Publisher:
Date: 11/2013

Plunging tax revenues and soaring social program demand during the Great Recession created state budget shortfalls of historic magnitude. After reviewing states’ aggregate reaction to the economic downturn, we conduct an original analysis of the recession’s budgetary impact on the states and their policy responses. Economic factors such as falling personal income and home values explain much of the variation in the recession’s impact. State budgeting rules and practices conditioned states’ experiences, but not always as intended: budget gaps were smaller in states with stricter balanced budget requirements, but larger in states with statutory spending limitations. Personal income tax increases were more likely in states with a Democratic legislature or greater public unionization rates, while midyear spending cuts were smaller in states with larger public sector unions. In sum, we find that while states’ objective economic situations determined the bulk of their responses to the Great Recession, political factors determined these responses’ shape and form.

Labor Markets - Multimedia

Sorry, but no media items exist for this research group.