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Long-Term Trends in Labor Productivity and Wages


The growth rate of labor productivity is a key determinant of the long-run level of earnings. The level and distribution of earnings are in turn key influences on the revenue collected by the payroll tax that finances the US Social Security program. At the July 2022 Economics of Social Security meeting hosted by the NBER, three panelists -- Francine Blau of Cornell University and NBER, Stephen Goss of the US Social Security Administration, and Charles Jones of Stanford University and NBER -- examined historical trends in the level and distribution of earnings as well as the potential impact of changes in the rate of economic growth, and the gender composition of the labor force, on future payroll tax revenues.

A research summary from the monthly NBER Digest

Measuring Poverty Using Household Outlays


Measuring poverty is a long-standing challenge. The official US poverty rate is based on households’ before-tax-and-transfer income. Alternative measures, derived from household expenditures, have been proposed as more-informative indicators of well-being among disadvantaged households.

In The Supplemental Poverty Measure: A New Method for Measuring Poverty (NBER Working Paper 30056), John Fitzgerald and Robert A. Moffitt develop a new metric for identifying poor households. They use information...

From the NBER Bulletin on Health

Working Paper Figure w30047

Community Health Centers Improved Infant Health


Community health centers (CHCs) offer primary care services at discounted prices in economically disadvantaged communities. The first two CHCs were introduced, as part of the War on Poverty, in Massachusetts and Mississippi in 1965. Over the next 23 years, CHCs were gradually rolled out to medically underserved communities around the country and, by 1988, they were available in 733 counties. The CHC program continued after 1988, but under a new name (federally qualified health centers) and with some modified funding policies.

While CHCs provided all types of primary care, prenatal care was a common form of care. In 1988, CHCs served approximately 6 percent of all pregnant women. This prominent role in the provision of prenatal care raises the question of whether CHCs affected birth...

From the NBER Reporter: Research, program, and conference summaries

Figure 1 2022 number 2 Figlio Giuliano Sapienza summary

Cultural Transmission in Education


In recent decades, economists have studied how beliefs and preferences are formed and updated, and how cultural and social norms affect economic decisions. In a series of papers, together with our collaborators, we investigate how vertical and horizontal cultural transmission of preferences may affect educational outcomes.

Long-Term Orientation and Educational Outcomes

In our work with Umut Özek, we study the relevance of one specific cultural value — long-term orientation, the ability to delay gratification and exert self-control. This trait has been associated with physical, emotional, and educational outcomes.

From the NBER Bulletin on Retirement and Disability

NBER RDRC Working Paper NB21-09

Changes in the Generosity of Pensions for State and Local Workers


In recent years, many state and local governments have decreased the generosity of the benefits promised to plan participants due to rising fiscal burdens. In Reductions in the Generosity of State and Local Employee Pensions: Comparison of Plans with and without Social Security Coverage (NBER RDRC Working Paper NB21-09), researchers Nino Abashidze, Robert Clark, and Lee Craig offer a history of retirement plans for state and local workers in the US, with a focus on the decreases in generosity of those plans over the past 20 years.

Public school teachers were among the first state and local employees to receive pensions. As other categories of state workers gained access to pensions, many states maintained separate...

From the NBER Bulletin on Entrepreneurship

Working Paper Figure w29532

The Rise of Private Financing for Entrepreneurs


In Private or Public Equity? The Evolving Entrepreneurial Finance Landscape (NBER Working Paper 29532), Michael Ewens and Joan Farre-Mensa survey the changes in the US entrepreneurial finance market over the last two decades. Their study begins by describing the differences between publicly listed and private firms, and then explores how several regulatory, technological, and competitive changes affecting both startups and investors have affected the costs and benefits of going public. The paper emphasizes the growing costs of the disclosures required of public firms, and also observes that major technological changes have reduced the initial capital investment…

Featured Working Papers

Abortion rates in Arkansas fell 17% after passage of a mandatory waiting period law in 2015, Onur Altindağ, and Theodore J. Joyce report.

Corporate income tax changes generate persistent effects on R&D expenditure, productivity, and output, whereas personal income tax changes trigger large but short-lived responses, according to James CloyneJoseba MartinezHaroon Mumtaz, and Paolo Surico.

“Ghost firms” that sell fake receipts to real firms to enable fraudulent tax deductions are a global challenge to tax enforcement. Paul CarrilloDave DonaldsonDina Pomeranz, and Monica Singhal study an initiative in Ecuador that reduced the prevalence of “ghost” transactions.

When more education programs joined a centralized higher education platform in Chile, access to college became both more efficient and more equitable, Adam KaporMohit KarnaniChristopher Neilson find.

Less generous rules for unemployment insurance benefits in states with the largest number of Black workers results in an average 8% Black-White gap in the programs’ replacement rate, Daphné SkandalisIoana Marinescu, and Maxim N. Massenkoff report.

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Books & Chapters

Through a partnership with the University of Chicago Press, the NBER publishes the proceedings of four annual conferences as well as other research studies associated with NBER-based research projects.

Research Spotlights

NBER researchers discuss their work on subjects of wide interest to economists, policymakers, and the general public. Recordings of more-detailed presentations, keynote addresses, and panel discussions at NBER conferences are available on the Lectures page.
Life expectancy vs hh income percentile figure
Research Spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected different subgroups of the population, based on race, ethnicity, and income, in...
COVID sectoral revenue decline figure 03032022
Research Spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic affected businesses in different industries in disparate ways.  Those in customer contact...
PPP racial disparity figure final 02222022
Research Spotlight
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was one of the central elements of the pandemic stimulus program. It was designed...
substance deaths figure 02042022
Research Spotlight
The number of deaths from drug overdoses and alcohol abuse rose during the first 16 months of the COVID-19 pandemic....
married women's employment figure 01202022
Research Spotlight
Employment in the US declined early in the pandemic, and has remained below its pre-pandemic level as the number of...
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