Archive for the 'Human Capital, Labor & Wealth' Category

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Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, October 2013 (PDF):

In 2012, the unemployment rate for the United States was 8.1 percent; however, the rate varied across race and ethnicity groups. The rates were highest for Blacks (13.8 percent) and for American Indians and Alaska Natives (12.3 percent) and lowest for Asians (5.9 percent) and for Whites (7.2 percent). The jobless rate was 10.3 percent for Hispanics, 11.8 percent for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and 11.9 percent for people of Two or More Races.

Differences in labor force characteristics emerge when the race and ethnicity groups are compared. These differences reflect a variety of factors, not all of which are measurable. These factors include variations across the groups in educational attainment; the occupations and industries in which the groups work; the geographic areas of the country in which the groups are concentrated, including whether they tend to reside in urban or rural settings; and the degree of discrimination encountered in the workplace.

See also: The Workforce Is Even More Divided by Race Than you Think in The Atlantic.

PRB Webinar – The Economic and Social Consequences of Job Loss and Unemployment

Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 1-2 pm.

From the announcement:

In this webinar, Jennie E. Brand, Associate Professor of Sociology and Associate Director of the California Center for Population Research (CCPR) at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Till von Wachter, Associate Professor of Economics and Faculty Affiliate of CCPR at UCLA, will discuss some of the short- and long-term consequences of job loss and unemployment for families in the United States. Their discussion will be followed by 10-15 minutes of Q&A.

This webinar is provided by PRB’s Center for Public Information on Population Research, with funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Joining the online webinar is free. Participants who choose to listen to the audio via telephone are responsible for their own standard long-distance rates.

Space is limited. Click here to register or go to (

System requirements for attending the webinar:
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet

Top Colleges Are More Diverse Than 20 Years Ago

Elite Institutions: Far More Diverse Than They Were 20 Years Ago
By: Seth Zweifler
Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

The nation’s most selective colleges have become significantly more diverse over the past 20 years, a Chronicle analysis of U.S. Education Department data shows. Research universities are more diverse than liberal-arts colleges—and, not unexpectedly, public research universities in racially diverse states like California have made greater gains in diversity than have those in Midwestern states.

Full text
Diversity at Research Universities, 1992-2012
Diversity at Liberal-Arts Colleges, 1992-2012
Race, Ethnicity, and Gender of Full-Time Faculty at More Than 4,300 Institutions

Janet Yellen, Economic Demographer

Janet Yellen was nominated as the first female head of the Federal Reserve yesterday [note, that Rand Paul has put a hold on the nomination] . Here is a paper she and her husband George Ackerloff wrote almost 20-years ago on the increase in unmarried childbearing:

An Analysis of Out-Of-Wedlock Births in the United States
George Ackerloff and Janet Yellen | Brookings Review
Fall 1996
This Policy Brief was prepared for the Fall 1996 issue of the Brookings Review and adapted from “An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States,” which appeared in the May 1996 issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Also of interest is a news story about Ackerloff in the mid-1980s on “efficiency wages” based on their experience hiring babysitters:

Why Unemployment Sometimes Lingers On Stirs Renewed Interest
Alan Murray | Wall Street Journal
December 26, 1985
Note that a young Larry Summers (age 30) is mentioned in this piece. Sticky wages are also mentioned in this summary of her appointment in the New York Times:

Yellen’s Path From Liberal Theorist to Fed Voice for Jobs
Binyamin Appelbaum | New York Times
October 9, 2013
As thorough as this piece is, it fails to mention that Charlie Brown was a teaching assistant for her at Harvard.

Natural Experiments: In Education

A former PSC student, Mike Lovenheim, has several recent papers that have made the news because they shed light on educational policy. I’m only going to highlight two of these, but link to several of his working papers for those who want to see the creative ways he is examining the economics of education and issues in local taxation. And, a new paper has just been added to this entry. It uses lottery-data to evaluate the NY small school movement.

Small High Schools and Student Achievement: Lottery-Based Evidence from New York City
Atila Abdulkadiroğlu, Weiwei Hu, Parag A. Pathak | NBER
October 2013
Abstract | Paper

Early Retirement Incentives and Student Achievement
Maria D. Fitzpatrick & Michael F. Lovenheim | NBER Working Paper, No. 19281
August 2013
Abstract | Paper

[Popular Press]
Student Test Scores Rose When Teachers Retired Early
Khadeeja Safdar | Wall Street Journal
August 19, 2013

Does Federal Financial Aid Affect College Enrollment? Evidence from Drug Offenders and the Higher Education Act of 1998
Michael F. Lovenheim and Emily G. Owens | NBER Working Paper, No. 18749
February 2013
Abstract | Paper

[Popular Press]
Financial Aid for College Students With Drug Convictions
February 7, 2013

Physician-Induced Demand

Physicians Treating Physicians: Information and Incentives in Childbirth
Erin Johnson and M. Marit Rehavi | NBER Working Paper, No. 19242
July 2013
[Abstract] [Paper]
This paper has a medical sounding title, but should be of interest to health economists as it sheds light on physician-induced demand for medical services. It should also be of interest to all researchers – very creative use of data. I shudder to think how long it took the researchers to assemble the file and go through the restricted data bureaucracies.

Microsoft Excel: The Ruiner of Global Economies?

This is a series of articles on the news that a well-cited and influential paper by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff had an Excel error in it, which led to an overstating of the association between debt and growth. There are other more fundamental problems with the paper – see comments by economists below.

From a training viewpoint, it is relevant to note that this was discovered by a graduate student, working on a class assignment: find a famous study and replicate it.

This entry has four sections: (a)the student; (b)comments by other economists; (c)replication & programming; and (d)coverage from the press.

The Story of the Student
Meet the 28-Year-Old Grad Student Who Just Shook the Global Austerity Movement
Kevin Roose | The New York Magazine
April 18, 2013

How a student took on eminent economists on debt issue – and won
Edward Krudy | Reuters
April 18, 2013

‘They Said at First That They Hadn’t Made a Spreadsheet Error, When They Had’
Peter Monagham | Chronicle of Higher Education
April 24, 2013
My favorite Q & A from this interview with Thomas Herndon is:
Q. This is more than a spreadsheet error, then?

A. Yes. The Excel error wasn’t the biggest error. It just got everyone talking about this. It was an emperor-has-no-clothes moment.

Comments/Analysis by Economists
Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogo ff
Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin | Political Economy Research Institute
April 15, 2013
easier to read pdf of paper, but link above includes data, code, etc.

Researchers Finally Replicated Reinhart-Rogoff, and There Are Serious Problems
Michael Konczal | Next New Deal (blog of the Roosevelt Institute)
April 16, 2013

Reinhart and Rogoff are wrong about austerity
Robert Pollin and Michael Ash | Financial Times
April 17, 2013

Reinhart/Rogoff and Growth in a Time Before Debt
Arindrajit Dube | Next New Deal (blog of the Roosevelt Institute)
April 17, 2013

Reinhart, Rogoff, and How the Macroeconomic Sausage Is Made
Justin Fox | Harvard Business Review
April 17, 2013

The Excel Depression
Paul Krugman | New York Times
April 19, 2013

Replication & Programming
The Mysterious Powers of Microsoft Excel
Colm O’Regan | BBC News Magazine
April 20, 2013

What the Reinhart & Rogoff Debacle Really Shows: Verifying Empirical Results Needs to be Routine
Victoria Stodden | The Monkey Cage Blog
April 19, 2013

What Reinhart-Rogoff Means for the Replication Debate
Political Science Replication Blog
April 19, 2013

Microsoft Excel: The ruiner of global economies?
Peter Bright | Ars Technica
April 16, 2013
This piece describes the Excel error, but also discusses other issues with the paper, including the interesting tidbit that the original Reinhart-Rogoff paper was published in the American Economic Review proceedings issue(May), which are not peer reviewed.

Two clever economists have looked to see if researchers pad their resumes by hiding their AER proceedings publications. The University of Michigan economics department was included in their sample.

Research: Bad math rampant in family budgets and Harvard studies
Jeremy Olshan | Wall Street Journal (Market Watch blog)
April 17, 2013
88% of spreadsheets have errors

On the accuracy of statistical procedures in Microsoft Excel 2007
B.D. McCullough and David A. Heiser | Computational Statistics and Data Analysis
March 2008
These authors criticize Excel for its use in statistical analysis because of its failures in statistical distributions, random number generation, and the NIST StRD(Statistical Reference Datasets). I suspect most users of Excel are using the simpler tools: summation, product, etc., but on occasion faculty have used Excel as a rudimentary statistical analysis tool.

What We Know about Spreadsheet Errors
Raymond Panko | Journal of End User Computing
May 2008

Come to Jesus Slides: Use Script-Based Analysis, not Excel
Matt Frost | Charlottesville, Virginia
The author is recommending R or more specifically R Studio, but his point applies to any script-based statistical package.

The Press
Too many to link to for the moment, but here’s a sampling:
[Search Link]

Income Mobility and Welfare

International Monetary Fund Working Paper
By: Tom Krebs, Pravin Krishna, and William Maloney


This paper develops a framework for the quantitative analysis of individual income dynamics, mobility and welfare. Individual income is assumed to follow a stochastic process with two (unobserved) components, an i.i.d. component representing measurement error or transitory income shocks and an AR(1) component representing persistent changes in income. We use a tractable consumption-saving model with labor income risk and incomplete markets to relate income dynamics to consumption and welfare, and derive analytical expressions for income mobility and welfare as a function of the various parameters of the underlying income process. The empirical application of our framework using data on individual incomes from Mexico provides striking results. Much of measured income mobility is driven by measurement error or transitory income shocks and therefore (almost) welfare-neutral. A smaller part of measured income mobility is due to either welfare-reducing income risk or welfare-enhancing catching-up of low-income individuals with high-income individuals, both of which have economically significant effects on social welfare. Decomposing mobility into its fundamental components is thus seen to be crucial from the standpoint of welfare evaluation.

Free full text (PDF, 700KB)

Intrade is no more, but we have some of its data

The popular election website Intrade has ceased operations, but below are links to archives of Intrade trades as well as a few articles discussing the site and its history. Intrade was on shaky legs when US residents were prohibited from placing bets after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission accused the company of offering contracts outside of traditional exchanges with no regulatory oversight.

Archived Trades via Twitter
Intrade Archive via Panos Ipeirotis (@ipeirotis) [stopped collecting Financials in 2012]
Intrade Archive Archive Team at Internet Archive via

Online Betting Site Intrade Is Shut After Audit Queries
Mark Scott | NY Times
March 12, 2013

RIP Intrade: The last, best hope for pundit accountability
Neil Irwin | Wonkblog, Washington Post
March 11, 2013

Even without Intrade, Billions will be Bet on 2016 Race
Nate Silver | FiveThirtyEight Blog, NY Times
March 11, 2013

Research on Black First Names

The first paper is by former PSC post-doc, Trevon Logan, which shows that blacks had distinctive names in the early 20th Century – that this is not new. He and his co-authors used historical census data as well as data from death certificates. The second paper explores whether searches involving ‘black’ names results in different ads being displayed via a Google search. Interestingly, one of the black names is ‘Trevon.’ Likewise, one of the female black names is ‘Latanya’ which is the author’s first name. The final paper is probably a familiar paper to most – does having a black name make a difference in interview call backs.

Distinctively Black Names in the American Past
Lisa Cook, Trevon Logan, and John Parman | NBER (Working paper 18802)
February 2013

Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery
Latanya Sweeney | Harvard University [working paper posted on]
January 2013

Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination
Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan | NBER (working paper 9873)
July 2003