Unions’ Capacity to Mitigate Income Inequality
Varies with Skills of the Workers Being Organized
What is the nature of the relationship between growing inequality, slow wage growth, and declines in union membership? What explains the income gap between union and nonunion households? Suresh Naidu, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at Columbia University and an NBER researcher, discusses what he and his colleagues have found.
Mergers among U.S. Department of Defense contractors from 1985 through 2001 led to an increase in the award of noncompetitive contracts, decreased use of fixed-price contracts, and increased reliance on cost-plus contracts, according to research summarized in the January edition of the NBER Digest Although the market concentration meant less competition, the researchers find no evidence that it increased total acquisition costs. Also featured in this issue of the monthly Digest: a study of effects of neighborhood environments on children's future possibilities, a look at trends in U.S. retention of STEM PhDs from abroad, an examination of the influence of U.S. monetary policy on global lending, and a comparison of pricing changes among retailers and an analysis of the association between early retirement and mortality.
U.K. voters become more Eurosceptical as they age, but the share of today’s younger cohorts that are pro-E.U. is higher than the share of young cohorts in the past. Barry Eichengreen, Rebecca Mari, and Gregory Thwaites find that prospectively, the ageing of the electorate will be offset in part by the growing number of younger, better-educated, more pro-Europe citizens.
An overwhelming majority of participants in a blind taste test of foods administered by Bart Bronnenberg, Jean-Pierre H. Dubé, and Robert E. Sanders chose a retailer’s private label over national brands. Among participants, this sharply increased purchases of the private label brand in the short run, but the effect declined with time.
International Social Security Project Analyzes
Pension Programs and Workforce Participation
The emergence of increasingly generous pension plans was associated with a decline in labor force participation by older people during the 20th century; more recently, pension reforms and cutbacks have incentivized workers to stay on the job. Courtney Coile of Wellesley College and the NBER is a long-time researcher in an NBER project that has studied retirement decisions and related issues for more than 20 years.
Factors Contributing to Global Poverty's Persistence:
Financial, Environmental, Physical, and Psychological
What turns poverty into a cycle that perpetuates across generations? The Economics of Poverty Traps, a new NBER book edited by Christopher B. Barrett, Michael R. Carter, and Jean-Paul Chavas, explores the hypothesis that poverty is self-reinforcing because the equilibrium behaviors of poor people perpetuate low standards of living. Contributions explore the dynamic, complex processes by which households accumulate assets and increase their productivity and earnings potential, as well as the conditions under which some individuals, groups, and economies struggle to escape poverty. Investigating the full range of phenomena that combine to generate poverty traps — gleaned from behavioral, health, and resource economics as well as the sociology, psychology, and environmental literatures — the volume presents new evidence that highlights insights and identifies limits to current analyses of poverty traps.
How the Ongoing Shutdown of the U.S. Government
Is — and Isn't — Like the One that Occurred in 2013
Matthew D. Shapiro, who is professor of economics at the University of Michigan and a research associate at the NBER, was a member of a team that made an in-depth study of how government workers coped with interruption of their incomes during the 2013 Federal government shutdown. [After this recording was made, Congress voted that furloughed federal employees eventually will receive back pay.]
The NBER's working group on household finance has convened researchers studying how the presence or absence of financial education programs, self-interested financial advisers, and pension plan participation requirements influence consumer behaviors that affect their financial well-being. A report on this research field is featured in the new issue of the NBER Reporter. Also in this edition of the quarterly Reporter are articles on research into the role of financial factors in economic fluctuations, the price and quality of prescription drugs, public sector personnel management in developing countries, and comparative rates of return.
New Research Associates
and Faculty Research Fellows for 2018
The NBER appointed 58 new research associates and 45 new faculty research fellows in 2018. New appointees must be faculty members at North American colleges and universities, and are recommended by program directors in the culmination of a highly competitive process.