Suresh Naidu, Noam Yuchtman, 23 August 2016

Today’s labour market in the US has much in common with that of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then, as now, there were few government protections for workers, fears over cheap immigrant labour, rapid technological change, and increasing market concentration. This column explores the lessons that can be drawn from the earlier ‘Gilded Age’. The findings suggests that even as markets play a greater role in allocating labour, legal and political institutions will continue to shape bargaining power between firms and workers.

Stefano Scarpetta, Mark Keese, Paul Swaim, 25 July 2016

The labour market recovery in OECD countries has been steady but slow since the Great Recession. More worrying is the fate of wage growth over the same period. This column assesses the implications of stagnation in the labour market for growth, wages, and inequality. It finds that structural weaknesses in labour market performance have become more visible as markets recover from the Great Recession. The policy response must include macroeconomic policies aimed at strengthening investment, and structural policies to support growth while nudging workers towards higher-skilled jobs.

Jeffrey Nugent, 14 July 2016

Labour market regulations make it harder for firms to adjust to shocks, but protect workers. In this video, Jeffrey Nugent presents his research on the quantification of key aspects of labour market regulation. This video was recorded during a UNU-WIDER conference on “Human capital and growth” held in June 2016.

Ghazala Azmat, Rosa Ferrer, 12 July 2016

Gender gaps in earnings exist in high-skill industries despite male and female workers having similar educational backgrounds. This column uses evidence from the legal industry to assess how performance affects career outcomes across genders. Performance gaps, defined by hours billed and new revenue raised, explain a substantial share of the gender gaps in earnings, as women’s working hours are affected by having young children while those of men are not. An important implication is that gender-based inequality in earnings and career outcomes might not decrease in the near future as more high-skilled workers are explicitly compensated based on performance. 

Sara Calligaris, Massimo Del Gatto, Fadi Hassan, Gianmarco Ottaviano, Fabiano Schivardi, 28 June 2016

Many advanced economies have experienced a productivity slowdown in recent years. Italy, however, has been experiencing such a slowdown since the mid-1990s. This column provides a detailed analysis of Italy’s patterns of misallocation over this period. Firms in the Northern regions, as well as large firms, have experienced the sharpest increase in resource misallocation. To tackle the resulting productivity slowdown, reforms need to address unemployment benefits and higher education, as well as encouraging investment in intangible assets. 

Marianne Bertrand, Patricia Cortes, Claudia Olivetti, Jessica Pan, 21 June 2016

Marriage rates of skilled and unskilled women have evolved quite differently across countries since 1995. The rate is lower overall for skilled women but the gap is narrowing, and even reversing, in some countries. This column uses evidence from 23 countries between 1995 and 2010 to consider how skilled women’s labour market opportunities impact their marriage prospects in different societies. Generally, more conservative societies have lower marriage rates for skilled women relative to unskilled women, with the effects of an increase in skilled women’s wages depending on the degree of conservatism.

Santiago Caicedo, Robert Lucas, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 14 May 2016

A large part of people’s wages rewards the knowledge embedded in them that they use in a production endeavour. Knowledgeable individuals specialise in hard, complicated tasks, while less knowledgeable ones specialise in simpler, more common tasks. This column uses a dynamic model of knowledge accumulation over time and career paths to find an underlying cause for wage inequality in the US over the last few decades. A good explanation for the wage inequality is the discrepancy between the rate of technological change and the rate at which the distribution of knowledge catches up.

Robert Dixon, Guay Lim, Jan van Ours, 03 May 2016

Okun’s law describes the positive empirical relationship between unemployment and the output gap. This column explores how this relationship differs depending on age and gender, taking into account different labour market institutions. Using data for 20 OECD countries over three decades, the authors find that the effect of Okun’s relationship decreases with age. Labour market institutions have similar effects on the unemployment rates of all groups, though magnitudes vary by age and gender.


Nobel Prizes in Economics Joseph Stiglitz, Angus Deaton and Michael Spence will lecture at the I.S.E.O International Summer School 2016 focused on "Looking forward: new challenges and opportunities for the World Economy”. The course takes place in a wonderful location in northern Italy and it's promoted by I.S.E.O Institute chaired by Robert Solow. Post graduate students, young economists and researchers are eligible. Partial scholarships available. Info or [email protected].

Wolfgang Dauth, Sebastian Findeisen, Jens Südekum, 21 February 2016

A common theme of recent trade theory models is that globalisation-related shocks induce worker sorting across industries, labour markets, and plants. However, there is little empirical evidence of shocks causing such endogenous mobility responses. This column explores how rising international trade exposure affected the job biographies and earnings profiles of German manufacturing workers since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Individuals are found to systematically adjust to globalisation, with a notable asymmetry in the individual labour market responses to positive and negative shocks. Critically, the push effects out of import-competing manufacturing industries are not mirrored by comparable pull effects into export-oriented branches.

Italo Colantone, Rosario Crinò, Laura Ogliari, 04 December 2015

Influential studies have shown that trade liberalisation is associated with substantial adjustment costs for workers in import-competing jobs. This column uses UK data to shed light on one such cost that has not been considered to date – subjective well-being. Import competition is found to substantially raise mental distress, through worsened labour market conditions and increased stress on the job. These findings provide evidence of an important hidden cost of globalisation.

Adriana Kugler, Maurice Kugler, Juan Saavedra, Luis Herrera, 28 January 2016

Vocational training programmes offer a second chance to those who drop out of the formal education system. Most studies of the success of such programmes, however, typically only analyse outcomes directly after participation. This column examines the medium- and long-term outcomes of a vocational training programme in Colombia. Results suggest that vocational training and formal education are complementary investments and that there are educational spillover effects for family members, in particular among applicants with high baseline educational attainment.

Christopher Stanton, Catherine Thomas, 03 November 2015

Outsourcing labour tasks to lower wage countries has been made much easier by the emergence of global online labour markets. This column argues that there are significant frictions in these markets, making it difficult for workers to get their first job and establish a reputation. However, new types of organisations have emerged that allow the sharing of reputations among groups of high-quality workers. These organisations seem to rely on offline social ties between workers to help reduce information-related trade barriers.

William Kerr, Martin Mandorff, 31 October 2015

Immigrants are more likely to concentrate around specific industries and entrepreneurship. Market integration and discrimination only go a certain way towards explaining this phenomenon. This column explores how social interactions affect immigrants’ employment decisions in the US. Fifteen ethnic groups are found to cluster around certain industries at a rate 10 times greater than the native population. Immigrants are argued to be drawn to the same industries as their countrymen due to the ease of diffusing skills through social interactions in the group, along with higher earnings due to specialisation.

Simone Moriconi, Giovanni Peri, 19 October 2015

Unemployment rates vary widely across EU countries. While national institutions and policies explain much of the variation, cultural values, attitudes, and beliefs may also play a role. This column uses survey data from 26 EU countries to investigate the existence of culturally transmitted preferences for work. Country-specific preferences for work are found to have a positive effect on emigrants’ labour market outcomes, with those from countries with an above-average preference for work having higher employment rates abroad. Cultural preferences are significant enough that EU countries may never converge to the same employment rate.

Juan Dolado, 09 February 2015

Youth unemployment has been a problem in Europe for several decades, but some European countries have fared much better than others in recent years. This column summarises the policy lessons to be drawn from a new eBook that compares the labour market experiences of different European countries and provides an early evaluation of the European Commission’s Youth Guarantee scheme.

Manudeep Bhuller, Magne Mogstad, Kjell Salvanes, 22 September 2014

The impact of education on earnings over the life cycle is a critical factor for policy decisions ranging from education to taxation and pensions. This column exploits a unique Norwegian population panel data set to estimate an internal rate of return to additional schooling of about 10%. The standard Mincer-regression approach is also shown to substantially underestimate schooling’s rate of return.

Peter Cappelli, 21 September 2014

Many high-paying jobs in the US cannot be filled, raising concerns about an existing skills gap. However, this column does not find evidence in support of serious skills gap or shortages in the US labour force. Similarly to other developed economies, the prevailing situation in the US is due to skill mismatches. This could have implications for students and their tuition-paying families.

Michele Battisti, Gabriel Felbermayr, Giovanni Peri, Panu Poutvaara, 08 August 2014

Immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in most OECD countries. Economic models emphasising the benefits of immigration for natives have typically neglected unemployment and redistribution – precisely the things voters are most concerned about. This column analyses the effects of immigration in a world with labour market rigidities and income redistribution. In two-thirds of the 20 countries analysed, both high-skilled and low-skilled natives would benefit from a small increase in immigration from current levels. The average welfare gains from immigration are 1.25% and 1.00% for high- and low-skilled natives, respectively.

Alex Edmans, 25 July 2014

Happy workers might well be more productive than unhappy ones, but high worker satisfaction could also be a sign that workers are overpaid or underworked. This column examines the link between worker satisfaction and future stock returns in 14 countries. In most but not all countries, employee satisfaction is associated with higher future stock returns. Abnormal returns to companies with high worker satisfaction are significantly increasing in the flexibility of their countries’ labour markets.