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AN NBER PUBLICATION ISSUE: No. 8, August 2017

The Digest

A free monthly publication featuring non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest
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The median male who turned 55 in 2013 earned $136,400 less in lifetime income, measured in 2013 dollars, than a 55-year-old 16 years earlier. Average lifetime incomes of men entering the workforce since the 1960s have stagnated or fallen, while those of women have increased, according to the analysis presented in Lifetime Incomes in the United States Over Six Decades (NBER Working Paper No. 23371). Fatih Guvenen, Greg Kaplan, Jae Song, and Justin Weidner draw...

Research Summaries

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Article
The rise of "superstar firms" that are adept at patenting and using new technologies may be key to understanding the changing income shares of capital and labor. Labor's share of economic output, the ratio of wages and compensation to national income, has declined in the last three decades in most developed nations, but the explanation of this trend is not yet clear. A new study of U.S. industries finds that the rise of "superstar firms" that dominate their...
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Article
Over the first 20 years in the U.S., the average adult refugee pays taxes that exceed relocation costs and social benefits. Are refugees a burden on the taxpayer? New evidence suggests that, with a long enough perspective, the answer is no. William N. Evans and Daniel Fitzgerald, in The Economic and Social Outcomes of Refugees in the United States: Evidence from the ACS (NBER Working Paper No. 23498), find that over their first 20 years in the United States,...
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The U.S. price index for manufactured goods fell by an estimated 7.6 percent, mostly because the lowering of Chinese import tariffs enhanced China's competitiveness. Current public debate has focused on domestic firms' loss of market share to lower-priced international competitors and consequent reduction in domestic employment. Far less attention has been paid to the improvement in living standards that arises when international competition leads to lower prices...
Article
While annual consumer spending was approximately constant over the period 2004 to 2014, the number of shopping trips declined and average spending per trip increased. While income inequality has grown over the past 35 years, surveys conflict on whether that has translated to greater consumption inequality. Surveys that measure short-term consumer spending — say, over periods of two weeks — display increases in consumption inequality. But those that track spending...
Article
The effects of increases in Head Start spending on academic outcomes were larger when participants in the program subsequently attended schools that were comparatively well-funded as a result of court-ordered reforms. In Reducing Inequality Through Dynamic Complementarity: Evidence from Head Start and Public School Spending (NBER Working Paper No. 23489), Rucker C. Johnson and C. Kirabo Jackson find synergistic benefits from increased investment in Head Start and...

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