Grant Category

The Labor Market

How does the labor market affect equitable growth? How does inequality in turn affect the labor market?

The labor market is one of the most important institutions determining economic growth and its distribution, as labor income is more than two-thirds of national income. Skill levels and the efficient matching of skills to jobs are key for economic growth. Yet the labor market is not a perfectly competitive market, but rather one that is regulated by a wide array of institutions that affect labor income and its distribution.

We need a better understanding of the two-way link between equitable growth and the labor market. How does the labor market affect equitable growth? How does inequality, in turn, affect the labor market?

  • The effect of the labor market on equitable growth
  • The effects of inequality on the labor market
  • The effects of productivity on the labor market

Explore the Grants We've Awarded

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Walmart Supercenters and Monopsony Power: How a Large, Low-Wage Employer Impacts Local Labor Markets

Grant Year: 2021

Grant Amount: $15,000

Grant Type: doctoral

This project seeks to determine the overall impact of Walmart supercenters on local employment and earnings, and more generally on the competitive structure of affected local labor markets. The research design exploits the fact that Walmart Inc. attempted to place a supercenter in 39 counties but was prevented from doing so as the result of local efforts. These counties are compared to those where a supercenter was opened. Data on employment and earnings is gathered from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, and county-by-year labor force data from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics, both from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Preliminary results show that the entry of Walmart supercenters caused significant reductions in aggregate local employment and earnings, with retail employment increasing immediately upon entry before largely reverting to pre-entry levels. This research will help us understand how large employers can exercise monopsony power locally in the market for less-skilled labor and what the consequences are for workers.

Unequal Protections: Regional Disparities in Labor Standards Policies, Enforcement, and Violations

Grant Year: 2021

Grant Amount: $85,000

Grant Type: academic

Fine, Galvin, Round, and Shepherd seek to understand the relationship between region, race, state enforcement capacities, and minimum wage violations in the United States, and what the mechanisms are by which weaker state enforcement capacities might produce a higher incidence of minimum wage violations. This exploratory, theory-building project involves three major empirical components. First, the four researchers will improve upon, merge, and expand separate datasets they previously compiled on subnational labor standards enforcement capacity to create a novel and flexible database of all the enforcement capacities of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data and coding rules will be made fully transparent to enable future researchers to use whichever combination of codes best suits their particular research questions. Second, the researchers will use CPS-MORG data to estimate the minimum wage violation rate in every state and region of the United States. Third, they will use exploratory, in-depth comparative case studies to identify and theorize a repertoire of mechanisms linking the legacy of slavery and the post-slavery racialized economy in the South to weak state enforcement capacity and minimum wage violations in order to understand the role of federalism in creating and maintaining Black-White racial disparities.

The redistributional consequences of multiple minimum wages

Grant Year: 2020

Grant Amount: $15,000

Grant Type: doctoral

This project will analyze how the labor market absorbs an increase in the minimum wage. Utilizing the case study of Costa Rica’s highly binding and relatively more comprehensive minimum wage policy that includes multiple wage floors based on workers’ skill levels, the author will use employer-employee microdata and administrative data to explain how minimum wages shape the earnings distribution and the labor market equilibrium.

Where does new work come from?

Grant Year: 2020

Grant Amount: $76,000

Grant Type: academic

This project will construct a database of new work from 1900 to 2020 by compiling a list of job titles from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Alphabetical Index of Occupations. Previous research on “new work” measures the introduction of new job titles beginning in 1964 and documents that new work is performed by high-skilled workers and in cities. Preliminary work in this project indicates that at least some of these previously documented patterns may not have been true in the middle of the 20th century. The authors’ aim is: to chart the evolution of new work over 12 decades; to assess the potentially varying importance of new work in job creation and skill demands during different epochs in this period; and to test a set of economic hypotheses about where and when new work arises. The project has the potential to provide insight into why the locus of job creation, measured in terms of occupations, industries, skill demands, and wage levels has varied across decades, and the role of new technologies in the creation of new work. In addition to compiling job titles from U.S. Census data, the researchers will link the text of patents to new job titles to explore the impact of new technologies on jobs, and will link to the Consumer Expenditure Survey to measure demand shifts for the relatively recent period (from 1980 onward) to test the hypothesis that demand shifts may lead to new work.

Domestic outsourcing in the United States

Grant Year: 2020

Grant Amount: $70,000

Grant Type: academic

Recent research finds that most, if not all, of the growth in earnings inequality in the United States may be explained by the growth in inequality across firms or establishments. This finding is consistent with research showing that workers in outsourced establishments—such as call centers, janitorial service companies, or security services—receive lower pay and benefits than those workers doing the same jobs but who are employed by lead or primary firms. But our knowledge of the extent and impact of outsourcing on a broader set of workers is limited, in large part because of data constraints. This study will provide evidence based on rigorous, quantitative analysis of the extent to which outsourcing has contributed to inequality in the United States. The study will rely on Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics data linked with American Community Suvey data and will use the methodology established in a previous paper based on German data. A key shortcoming of the LEHD data is that it does not have information on occupation. By linking to ACS data, the authors will be able to observe occupation for a subset of those in the LEHD dataset and to assess the effects of outsourcing on outcomes besides earnings—most critically, health insurance.

Workers’ bargaining power in the United States over time

Grant Year: 2020

Grant Amount: $15,000

Grant Type: doctoral

A prominent feature of the post-Great Recession U.S. economy is the lack of adequate wage growth despite a tight labor market. One explanation is that a decline in workers’ bargaining power put downward pressure on wage growth. The declining labor share of income is popularly cited as one reason behind weakened worker bargaining power, and a burgeoning field of research ascribes much of this decline to the increase in monopsony power in the United States. This researcher seeks to estimate workers’ bargaining power over time in the United States. It will make some important extensions on the job search model, and then move onto a model of wage determination that looks at how labor market dynamics, such as vacancies and unemployment, impact wage determination via worker bargaining power.

Experts

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Stephen Woodbury

Michigan State University

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Jess Benhabib

New York University

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Atif Mian

Princeton University

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Samir Sonti

CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

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Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University

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