Research Programs

Employment Policy and Labor Markets

Employment Policy and Labor Markets

In 2001, the US economy entered a seventh consecutive year of expansion and unemployment rates were at 30-year lows. Yet, not all shared in the employment boom. Levy Institute research has found that between 1995 and 1999, only 217,000 jobs—of the more than 13 million created—went to the half of the population holding a high school degree or less; the remaining jobs went to those with at least some college education. Today, in an ever-tightening economy, there are almost nine million unemployed—5.6 percent of the labor force—and four job seekers for each available job. In addition, there are roughly 10 million full-time workers whose wages place them at or below the official poverty line. Clearly, there is room for improvement on the jobs front.

In response to this problem, Levy Institute scholars have proposed a full-employment, or job opportunity, program that would employ all who are willing to work and increase flexibility between economic sectors, thereby lowering the social and economic costs of unemployment. This program is preferable to proposed alternatives such as a reduction of the workweek or employment subsidies, neither of which is sure to raise employment—and both may have serious side effects. Other labor market policies studied by Levy Institute scholars include the effects of technology on earnings, and the effects of an increase in the minimum wage on hiring practices and earnings.



Program Publications

  • Working Paper No. 923 | February 2019
    The New Deal and Postwar France Experiments
    By the beginning of the 20th century, the possibility and efficacy of economic planning was believed to have been proven by totalitarian experiments in Germany, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser degree, Fascist Italy; however, the possibilities and limitations of planning in capitalist democracies was unclear. The challenge in the United States in the 1930s and in postwar France was to find ways to make planning work under capitalism and democratic conditions, where private agents were free to not accept its directives.
     
    This paper begins by examining the experience with planning during the first years of the New Deal in the United States, centered on the creation and operation of the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), and continues with a discussion of the French experience with indicative planning in the aftermath of World War II. A digression follows, touching on the proximity between the matters treated in this paper and Keynes’s view that macroeconomic stabilization could require a measure of socialization of investments, following James Tobin’s hunch that French indicative planning, as well as some social democrat experiences in Northern Europe, could be playing precisely that role. The paper concludes by identifying the lessons one can draw from the two experiences.

  • Working Paper No. 922 | February 2019
    Exploring the Causes and Consequences of Education-Occupation Job Mismatch
    With the rapid increase in educational attainment, technological change, and greater job specialization, decisions regarding human capital investment are no longer exclusively about the quantity of education, but rather the type of education to obtain. The skills and knowledge acquired in specific fields of study are more valuable for some jobs compared to others, which suggests the existence of differences in the quality of the education-occupation match in the labor market. With this premise in mind, this paper aims to estimate the effect of the quality of this education-occupation job match on workers’ wages and to explore the factors that contribute to the existence of such mismatch among workers with higher education (college or more). Using data from the American Community Survey 2010–16, we construct two indices that measure the quality of the education-occupation match: based on the predicted and observed distribution of workers using their fields of education and their jobs’ occupation classification. Results suggest there is a wage gap of around 3–4 percent when comparing workers that have good job matches to those who have bad matches. Given the importance of the penalty for mismatched jobs, we find that structural characteristics such as unemployment, and individual characteristics such as gender, race, immigration status, and even homeownership affect the quality of horizontal mismatch as well.
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    Author(s):
    Fernando Rios-Avila Fabiola Saavedra Caballero
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  • Working Paper No. 921 | January 2019
    This paper is a comparison between two programs implemented to combat poverty in Latin America: Prospera (Prosper) in Mexico and Asignación Universal por Hijo (Universal Assignment for Child) in Argentina.
     
    The first section offers a review of the emergence of the welfare state, examining economic and urban development in both countries and the underlying trends of social policy instruments.
     
    The analysis is based on the political nature of social problems and the actions undertaken to confront them. The paper offers a theoretical perspective, often questioning the very foundation of the social policy that serves as the main framework for the social programs, in order to present the policies’ scope, successes, and disadvantages with reference to social equity and the well-being of their participants.

  • Working Paper No. 915 | September 2018
    The Great Recession had a devastating impact on labor force participation and employment. This impact was not unlike other recessions, except in size. The recovery, however, has been unusual not so much for its sluggishness but for the unusual pattern of recovery in employment by race. The black employment–population ratio has increased since bottoming out in 2010, while the white employment–population ratio has remained flat. This paper examines trends in labor force participation and employment by race, sex, and age and determines that the explanation is a combination of an aging white population and an increase in labor force participation among younger black people. It estimates the likelihood of labor force participation and employment among young men and women to control for confounding factors (such as changes in educational characteristics) and decomposes the gaps among groups and the changes over time in labor force participation using a Oaxaca-Blinder-like technique for nonlinear estimations. Findings indicate that much smaller negative impacts of characteristics and greater returns to characteristics among young black men and women than among young white men and women explain the observed trends.

  • In the Media | July 2018
    By Bianca Facchinei
    Newsy, July 6, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

    With recent polling showing nearly half of American support a job guarantee program, Levy Research Associate Pavlina Tcherneva speaks with Newsy’s Bianca Facchinei about the costs and benefits of guaranteed employment.

    Read more: https://www.newsy.com/stories/job-guarantee-bill-can-the-u-s-ensure-jobs-for-all/
  • In the Media | July 2018
    by Laura Paddison
    Huffington Post, July 6, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

    Though official unemployment numbers are currently low, there are still many who feel they have been left behind. Levy Research Scholar Stephanie Kelton and the coauthors of the Levy Institute research project report “Public Service Employment: A Path to Full Employment” think the answer lies in a federally funded job guarantee that will “eliminate involuntary unemployment by creating living-wage, [and] socially beneficial jobs for the millions of Americans who want and need work ― essentially making employment a fundamental right.” 

    Read more: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/federal-job-guarantee-explained_us_5b363f4ae4b007aa2f7f59fc
  • One-Pager No. 55 | May 2018
    The job guarantee (JG) is finally getting the public debate it deserves, according to Pavlina R. Tcherneva, and criticism is expected. Following the Levy Institute’s latest report analyzing the economic impact of a JG proposal and providing a blueprint for its implementation, Tcherneva responds to alarmist claims that the JG is (1) an expensive big-government takeover, (2) unproductive and impossible to manage, (3) dangerously disruptive to the private sector, and (4) inflationary.

  • In the Media | May 2018
    By Zach Carter
    Huffington Post, May 20, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

    Highlighting the recent Public Service Employment program proposal by Stephanie Kelton, L. Randall Wray, Pavlina Tcherneva, Scott Fullwiler, and Mathew Forstater, Huffington Post's Zach Carter offers a profile of Levy Research Associate Stephanie Kelton's work in academia and Washington.

    Read more: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stephanie-kelton-economy-washington_us_5afee5eae4b0463cdba15121
  • Working Paper No. 905 | May 2018
    The Vested Interests, Limits to Reform, and the Meaning of Liberal Democracy
    I subject some aspects of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to critical analysis, with particular attention to what is termed “liberal democracy.” This analysis demonstrates the limits to reform, given the power of “vested interests” as articulated by Thorstein Veblen.
     
    While progressive economists and others are generally favorably disposed toward the New Deal, a critical perspective casts doubt on the progressive nature of the various programs instituted during the Roosevelt administrations. The main constraint that limited the framing and operation of these programs was that of maintaining liberal democracy. The New Deal was shaped by the institutional forces then dominant in the United States, including the segregationist system of the South. In the end, vested interests dictated what transpired, but what did transpire required a modification of the understanding of liberal democracy.

  • Policy Note 2018/3 | May 2018
    The idea of a universal job guarantee (JG) policy for the United States has become the subject of renewed public debate due to a number of high-profile political endorsements. L. Randall Wray recently coauthored a report that presented a JG proposal—the Public Service Employment program—along with estimates of the economic impact of the plan. However, several other variants have been proposed and/or endorsed. In this policy note, Wray seeks to establish common ground among the major JG plans and provides an initial response to critics.