Job distancing

Kevin Lewis

April 15, 2020

The Evolution of Work in the United States
Enghin Atalay et al.
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, April 2020, Pages 1-34


Using the text from job ads, we introduce a new dataset to describe the evolution of work from 1950 to 2000. We show that the transformation of the US labor market away from routine cognitive and manual tasks and toward nonroutine interactive and analytic tasks has been larger than prior research has found, with a substantial fraction of total changes occurring within narrowly defined job titles. We provide narrative and systematic evidence on changes in task content within job titles and on the emergence and disappearance of individual job titles.

How Many Jobs Can be Done at Home?
Jonathan Dingel & Brent Neiman
NBER Working Paper, April 2020


Evaluating the economic impact of "social distancing"' measures taken to arrest the spread of COVID-19 raises a fundamental question about the modern economy: How many jobs can be performed at home? We classify the feasibility of working at home for all occupations and merge this classification with occupational employment counts for the United States. Our classification implies that 34 percent of U.S. jobs can plausibly be performed at home.

Workplace Compensation Practices and the Rise in Benefit Inequality
Tali Kristal, Yinon Cohen & Edo Navot
American Sociological Review, forthcoming


This article aims to explain why inequality in fringe benefits has grown faster than wage inequality over the past four decades. We depart from previous income inequality research by studying benefits in addition to wages, but also by focusing on workplaces as the main drivers of benefit determination. We advance the argument that benefits determination is more organizationally embedded than wages mainly because workplaces have greater ability and incentive to alter benefits. Consequently, workplace compensation practices, including type of employment relations, are more important for benefits than for wages. Longitudinal linked employer-job administrative data on wages and voluntary benefits costs from the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) allow us to test these arguments, as well as examine why benefit inequality has dramatically increased. Results from variance decomposition reveal that between- and within-establishment inequality is higher in benefits than in wages, indicating that workplaces affect benefits more than wages. Regression results show that, as expected, establishment-level pay-settings affect benefits more than wages, and the decline in labor unions along with the liberalization of employment practices partly account for why benefit inequality increased at more than twice the rate of wage inequality.

Breaking the Law: Strike Bans and Labor Revitalization in the Red State Revolt
Eric Blanc
Labor Studies Journal, March 2020, Pages 74-96


A comparative analysis of the early 2018 statewide educators' strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma illustrates the viability of a relatively neglected prescription for revitalizing organized labor: illegal strike action. Whereas the West Virginia and Arizona walkouts successfully ignored legal prohibitions on striking and won major concessions from the state, Oklahoma's action was less successful in part because it remained on the terrain of legality. The experience of these three actions indicates that rank-and-file workers, union officials, and labor scholars should reconsider the labor movement's prevailing strategy of working within the law.

Searching for STARs: Work Experience as a Job Market Signal for Workers without Bachelor's Degrees
Peter Blair et al.
NBER Working Paper, March 2020


The demand for a skilled workforce is increasing even faster than the supply of workers with college degrees - the result: rising wage inequality by education levels, and firms facing a skills gap. While it is often assumed that increasing the number of college graduates is required to fill this gap, this paper explores the extent to which workers without BA college degrees can help fill this gap. To find workers without BA degrees who are potentially skilled through alternative routes (STARs), we use data on the skill requirements of jobs to compute the "skill distance" between a worker's current occupation and higher wage occupations with similar skill requirements in their local labor market. Based on our calculations, of the 16 million non-college educated workers with skills for high-wage work (> twice median earnings), 11 million whom we term "Rising STARs" are currently employed in middle-to low-wage work. We propose a general taxonomy for STARs to identify potential job transitions to higher wage work within their current earnings category and across earnings categories.

Effects of Recent Minimum Wage Policies in California and Nationwide: Initial Results from a Pre-Specified Analysis Plan
David Neumark & Maysen Yen
University of California Working Paper, March 2020


Many U.S. cities have recently increased their minimum wages, especially in California. We report results from carrying out analyses of the impacts of these city minimum wages, as specified in a pre-analysis plan (PAP) that was registered on Open Science Framework prior to the release of data covering two years of minimum wage increases. In this working paper, we report results updating the data through 2018; our final paper will add another year of evidence on minimum wages. For employment effects, in our analysis of California cities we find a hint of negative employment effects, but the estimates are neither robust nor statistically strong. The analysis of local minimum wages nationally also provides some evidence of disemployment effects, although it is not statistically significant. For distributional effects, our city-specific analyses do not provide clear evidence one way or the other, except for evidence of increases in the shares poor or low-income in Santa Clara. In our panel data analyses of all California or national local minimum wages, there is evidence pointing to declines in the shares poor or low-income, although at least for California the data indicate that the shares poor or low-income were declining before local minimum wages took effect (or were increased). More definitive results await our next update.

Understanding "Wage Theft": Evasion and Avoidance Responses to Minimum Wage Increases
Jeffrey Clemens & Michael Strain
NBER Working Paper, April 2020


A holistic assessment of the labor market effects of minimum wage regulation requires understanding employer compliance. We investigate how minimum wage increases and the strength of enforcement regimes affect the prevalence of subminimum wage payment. Using the Current Population Survey (CPS), we find strong evidence that higher minimum wages lead to a greater prevalence of subminimum wage payment. We estimate that increases in measured underpayment following minimum wage increases average between 14 and 22 percent of realized wage gains. Furthermore, we provide evidence that these estimates are unlikely to be driven by measurement error in the CPS's wage data, which are self-reported. Taken together, we interpret these findings as evidence that minimum wage noncompliance is an important reality in the low-wage labor market. We find some evidence that enforcement regimes mediate both baseline rates of subminimum wage payment and the response of subminimum wage payment to increases in minimum wages.

Do high levels of US employment reduce labour matching efficiency?
Andrew Crawley & Sarah Welch
Applied Economics Letters, February 2020, Pages 77-81


The US has witnessed an unprecedented period of employment expansion following the 2008/09 recession. This article uses a Beveridge curve approach to estimate US labour matching efficiency over the course of the last decade. It then analyses the effect of increasing employment on this efficiency. The results show that employment and labour market efficiency are co-integrated and as employment rises the efficiency of the matching process decreases.

Is Compassion a Good Career Move?: Nonprofit Earnings Differentials from Job Changes
Andrew Johnston & Carla Johnston
University of California Working Paper, March 2020


We explore the nonprofit earnings penalty. To separate the influence of demand and supply, we leverage workers who change employers in administrative tax data. The average nonprofit worker earns 5.5 percent less than the average for-profit worker. Supply-side factors (worker selection) contribute 80 percent of the nonprofit differential. The remaining 20 percent is from demand (a nonprofit penalty). Within-worker nonprofit variation generates several insights about the influence of nonprofits on the labor market. Nonprofits compress the wage distribution and reduce inequality among earners. Nonprofit penalties are much more pronounced in classic charities than in "commercial" nonprofits, which sometimes exhibit nonprofit premia.

Contesting the Great Compression: The National Labor Relations Board and Skilled Workers' Struggle to Control Wage Differentials, 1935-1955
Bryant Etheridge
Journal of Policy History, April 2020, Pages 183-213


This article argues that federal labor policy was a factor in causing the Great Compression, the dramatic compression of skill-based wage differentials that occurred in the 1940s, and in bringing it to an end. By giving the National Labor Relations Board the power to determine the appropriate collective-bargaining unit, New Dealers gave industrial unions the means with which to build a more egalitarian wage structure. Unskilled and semiskilled workers seized the opportunity and voted themselves big pay raises. Skilled craftsmen responded by petitioning the NLRB for permission to form their own craft bargaining units, a process known as "craft severance." As conservatives gained influence in Washington in the 1940s, the board adopted a bargaining-unit policy more favorable to craft unions. By the early 1950s, skilled craftsmen had regained control of their wage demands and thereby helped bring the Great Compression to a halt.

Impact of Property Tax Abatement on Employment Growth
Tammy Leonard et al.
Economic Development Quarterly, forthcoming


Property tax abatement incentives, used by 70% (35 states) of the states in the United States, redirect property tax revenue from the local community to firms in hopes that inducing these firms to relocate will bring economic development benefits to the local community. However, if unsuccessful, property tax abatement incentives might uniquely concentrate the costs of a failed economic incentive strategy within a single community. Using a sample of 45 industries in 43 cities, the authors examined the employment impact of property tax abatement incentives. Property tax abatement incentives were positively associated with employment growth, but only in the early years when the abatement policies were still new. The authors also explored heterogeneity in these results among industries. Property tax abatements targeting service industries, which are less likely to benefit from automation improvements, were associated with larger employment gains.


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