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COVID-19 and the Labor Market for Older Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a sharp rise in unemployment for workers of all ages. For older workers, it also increased the retirement rate and was associated with a decline in the number of new disability insurance filings. Unexpectedly early retirement on account of the pandemic can have long-lasting effects on retirees' level of Social Security benefits. In a new research paper (29083), NBER researchers Gopi Shah Goda of Stanford University (on leave at the Council of Economic Advisers) and Emilie Jackson, a post-doctoral scholar, along with Lauren Nichols of the Colorado School of Public Health and Sarah See Stith of the University of New Mexico, document the pandemic's impact on the labor market behavior of older workers. They present new information from the Current Population Survey and several other sources. Jackson summarizes their findings in the video below, and notes that some of short-term labor market changes may have longer-term consequences.  An archive of NBER videos on pandemic-related research may be found here.

 

Six new working papers distributed this week report on the economic, health, and related consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and public policies that respond to it. One examines alternative approaches to statistical modeling of pandemic-related volatility in economic time series (29060). Another studies the source of income-related disparities in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on pre-pandemic differences in health status and healthcare access and on differences in potential COVID-19 exposure at work (29063). Two focus on digital technology and pandemic response in developing nations. One demonstrates how mobile phone data can be combined with other data sources to identify households in particular need of pandemic-related relief (29070), while another shows that the trade-offs between cash and in-kind transfers are sensitive to the take-up of “mobile money” in a country (29086). One study analyzes the role of vaccine passports in reducing vaccine hesitancy (29075), while another explores the pandemic’s effect on the labor supply, and the Social Security and Disability benefit claiming behavior, of older workers (29083). 

More than 440 NBER working papers have addressed various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These papers are open access and have been collected for easy reference. Like all NBER papers, they are circulated for discussion and comment, and have not been peer-reviewed. View them in reverse chronological order or by topic area.


Economy Reached Trough in April 2020

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the NBER, which maintains a chronology of the peaks and troughs in economic activity in the United States, has determined that a trough in monthly economic activity occurred in April 2020. The previous peak in economic activity occurred in February 2020, implying a two-month recession. The committee released a statement explaining the factors that contributed to this determination as well as a list of frequently asked questions related to the dating of business cycle peaks and troughs. For further information, please contact NBER's Director of Public Information, Charles A. Radin, or visit the Business Cycle Dating Committee page.


From the NBER Digest

...a free monthly publication of non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest

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Regulators’ decision to facilitate nonbank private equity investors bidding for failed banks is estimated to have saved the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation $3.6 billion after the global financial crisis. When a US bank fails, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) generates a list of potential bidders who might be interested in acquiring it. They submit sealed bids for the failed bank, and the FDIC chooses the bid that will resolve the bank failure...

From the NBER Reporter

...a free quarterly featuring affiliates writing about their research, program updates, and NBER news

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The Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (PIE) Program was founded as the Productivity Program, with Zvi Griliches as the inaugural program director, in 1978. The program benefited tremendously from Griliches’ inspirational leadership, which was continued by Ernst Berndt. In recent years, the program has expanded to incorporate the vibrant and growing body of research in the affiliated fields of innovation and entrepreneurship. With the generous support of the...

From the Bulletin on Health

...a free summary of recent NBER Working Papers on health topics, distributed three times a year

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Uncertainty about the risk of COVID-19 transmission from school reopenings has confounded educational decision-making during the pandemic. Research on this topic has been affected by research design complications and a lack of data. In Back to School: The Effect of School Visits during COVID-19 on COVID-19 Transmission (NBER Working Paper 28645), researchers Dena Bravata, Jonathan H. Cantor, Neeraj Sood, and Christopher M. Whaley overcome several of these challenges to...

From the Bulletin on Retirement and Disability

...a free quarterly summarizing research in the NBER's Retirement and Disability Research Center

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The number of applications and new awards for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) rose during the Great Recession and earlier economic downturns. Some have speculated that this phenomenon could occur again during the COVID-19 crisis in the wake of pandemic-related job losses. While the relationship between economic conditions and SSDI awards is well-established, the reasons for it are less clear. One theory is that recessions worsen health, making more individuals...

Featured Working Papers

US commuting zones that experienced large increases in the supply of college-educated immigrants in recent decades became more specialized in AI-related occupations, with this increased specialization caused almost entirely by employment of foreign-born workers, according to research by Gordon H. Hanson.

The insurance value of college financial aid is substantial, since income- and asset-related eligibility rules provide more support for households in weaker financial circumstances — as much as 30 percent or more of the net cost of attending college, Kristy Fan, Tyler J. Fisher, and Andrew A. Samwick find.

The 1883 Pendleton Act, which mandated exams for some government workers, improved employees' professional backgrounds and reduced turnover, but failed to improve cost-effectiveness in revenue collection and induced hiring in exempted positions, Diana Moreira and Santiago Pérez find.

A public works intervention in Côte d’Ivoire caused a contemporaneous shift toward wage jobs in the formal sector, higher earnings, and savings, but there was no lasting impact on employment and only a limited impact on earnings, Marianne Bertrand, Bruno Crépon, Alicia C. Marguerie, and Patrick Premand find.

Almost half of all job transitions flow from higher- to lower-productivity firms.  Up-the-ladder flows are more likely for young, high-skilled workers, who make up the largest share of aggregate productivity change, according to Elias Albagli, Mario Canales, Chad Syverson, Matias Tapia, and Juan Wlasiuk.

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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.
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Research Spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a sharp rise in unemployment for workers of all ages. For older workers, it also increased...
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Research Spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to restructuring in some parts of the US economy. Many businesses have closed,...
Shelter-in-Place Policies and Excess Mortality Figure
Research Spotlight
Shelter-in-place policies were one of the most widely used policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries,...
Pandemic Risk Perceptions and Protective Behavior
Research Spotlight
Behavioral responses to the risk of being infected with COVID-19 as a result of social contact are key determinants of...
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Research Spotlight
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than one third of all employees shifted from in-person to remote work. The share is...
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