Labour markets

Emmanuelle Auriol, Guido Friebel, Sascha Wilhelm, 19 November 2019

Despite around a third of PhDs in economics in the US having been earned by women over the last few decades, under 15% of full professors in the US were women in 2017. This column uses data scraped from research institute websites to investigate whether a similar ‘leaky pipeline’ exists in Europe. It finds that in comparison to the US, European countries have a higher share of women full professors in their research institutions, but the attrition rate between junior and senior ranks is comparable on both sides of the Atlantic. There are important differences throughout Europe, however, with the Nordic countries and France scoring much higher on gender equality than, for instance, Germany and the Netherlands.

Michael Waugh, 19 November 2019

Consumers expect to bear the costs of trade wars through higher prices and reductions in variety. This column examines a different hardship of the US-China trade war: the retaliatory tariffs that affect income and production opportunities for directly impacted farmers and workers. Unlike price effects, which are spread across the population, this ‘labour income channel’ is concentrated and differs across US counties. Those who lost their position of comparative advantage for the Chinese market due to tariffs bear this burden of the trade war alone. 

Price Fishback, 12 November 2019

The US became the ‘arsenal of democracy’ by producing a massive amount of military goods that raised real GDP by 72% between 1940 and 1945. Yet, multiplier estimates for this expansion in government spending are less than one. Long-range studies at subnational levels show that military spending was associated with small effects on per capita activity. Military spending in the context of a quasi-command economy crowded out private consumption and investment and forced people into the military. In essence, Americans sacrificed heavily to win the war, while their Allies sacrificed even more.  

Jakob Molinder, Tobias Karlsson, Kerstin Enflo, 23 October 2019

History has shown that new technology can disrupt societies, and current developments in automation have raised anxious speculation on what might happen if stable middle-class jobs are taken over by machines. This column analyses the impact of technological change on labour markets and social protests, taking the case of the adoption of electricity in early 20th century Sweden. It finds that electrification did increase the incidence of local strikes, but that disputes were associated with workers demanding higher wages and better working conditions rather than attempting to block innovation.

Jennifer Hunt, Ryan Nunn, 17 October 2019

Over the last five decades, middle-wage jobs diminished in the US as wage inequality increased. This column investigates the relationship between these two phenomena, and finds no evidence that either computerisation or automation (often cited as a source of both trends) produced employment polarisation or increased wage inequality. By examining wages at the individual level (rather than occupation-average wages), the column suggests that the evolution of wages can be better explained by distinct causes—ranging from changing labour market institutions to globalisation—than by observable demographic factors. 

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