We report on research that concerns the education and training people receive, the amount that they work, what they do, and what they earn. Topics of interest include:

• Unemployment
• The wage and employment response to unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and income taxes and transfers
• School quality, educational attainment, and economic outcomes
• Regulations governing minimum wages, overtime pay, hiring and firing, and collective bargaining
• Discrimination in employment and pay
• The labour market effects of immigration
• The decision to retire
• Inequality and intergenerational mobility
• Marriage, fertility, and labour market behavior

Latest articles

Earnings Dynamics, Changing Job Skills, and STEM careers

The US labor market is particularly dynamic for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs, with new technologies proliferating throughout workplaces every year. This technological change is the engine of long-run productivity growth and rising living standards. In the shorter run, however, workers in technology-intensive occupations must constantly learn on the job, or risk becoming […]

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Can Integration Change Gender Attitudes?

The research described here asks whether integration can change gender attitudes even in a traditionally male-dominated environment. One reason to ask this question is that occupational gender segregation remains high, even though women make up nearly half the labor force in most rich countries (Blau et al. 2013). This pattern may reflect preferences that differ […]

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Face-to-Face Communication in Organizations

The international response to the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised working from home, especially for office workers tasked with the generation and processing of information. Compliance has generally been very high, with most companies not just encouraging, but mandating, their employees to work from home. This has led to an emptying of city centres and financial […]

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Second chance: the social benefits of diversion in the criminal justice system

Public officials are increasingly diverting people from the criminal justice system, usually to help them to avoid a criminal record and its associated consequences. The practice has become an important part of recent efforts to reform criminal justice policy, and it often enables corrections systems to conserve scarce resources. Despite the growing popularity of criminal […]

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Improved allocation of talent boosts US economic growth

In 1960, 94% of American doctors and lawyers were white men: by 2010, the fraction was just 62%. Similar changes in other high-skilled occupations have occurred throughout the US economy over the last 60 years. Given that the innate talent for these professions is not likely to be any different across groups, the change in […]

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Consumer spending during unemployment: evidence from US bank account data

Nearly all of us experience unemployment at some point in our careers. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that 90% of baby boomers have been out of work at least once in their lives. Unemployment is stressful in part because many people do not have enough savings to maintain their standard of living […]

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Performance management and workplace culture: evidence from a US trucking firm

There is a growing consensus among economists that management practices are an important explanation for the large observed variation in productivity among firms. Different firms often adopt different practices, even in a narrowly defined industry. In turn, some researchers have speculated that this variety is related to differences in the less tangible attributes of firms. […]

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Providing low-cost labor market information to assist jobseekers

Do jobseekers benefit from tailored advice about suitable occupations provided by employment agencies? This column reports the results of a randomized field experiment in which a group of unemployed people received suggestions for alternative occupations based on labor market statistics. The researchers find that the information stimulates the recipients to broaden their search to a more diverse set of occupations. What’s more, they receive a significantly larger number of invitations to job interviews, which is concentrated among those with longer unemployment. These findings suggest that jobseekers find it difficult to access relevant labor market information themselves, and that they can be offered valuable tailored advice in a low-cost, automated way.

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Nominal wage rigidity in village labor markets: evidence from India

Markets for daily wage labor are ubiquitous in poor countries, providing employment for hundreds of millions of workers in India alone. In an exploration of how nominal wages in these markets respond to changing economic conditions, this research finds strong evidence of limited downward adjustment in the face of a negative shock. A key part of the explanation lies in perceptions that wage cuts are unfair and reduce worker productivity. The higher unemployment that results from nominal wage rigidity could be addressed by counter-cyclical employment programs, and by modest levels of inflation that allow real wages to adjust in a way that avoids too much harm to workers.

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The costs of public sector patronage: lessons from the British Empire

Civil servants constitute a key element of state capacity, with the responsibility for raising government revenues, providing public services and implementing reforms. But what happens to their performance when they are appointed to office less on the basis of their talents than on their social connections to powerful patrons? This research examines the costs of patronage through the lens of a historical bureaucracy that spanned the globe: Britain’s Colonial Office. The research combines newly digitized personnel and public finance data from the administration of the British Empire over the period 1854-1966 to show how patronage influenced the promotion and performance of colonial governors.

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