Upcoming issue

Spring 2014 (Vol. 67, Supplement)

A Special Issue on the U.S. Department of Labor Centennial Symposium

Click on article titles to display their abstracts.

Introduction to the U.S. Department of Labor Centennial Symposium By Lawrence M. Kahn

Celebrating Relevant, Reliable, and Objective Labor Market Statistics By Katharine G. Abraham

The Early History of Program Evaluation and the Department of Labor By Orley C. Ashenfelter

America's Jobs Challenges and the Continuing Role of the U.S. Department of Labor By Lawrence F. Katz

The Department of Labor at the Intersection of Research and Policy By Alan B. Krueger

Labor Market Analysis and Labor Policymaking in the Nation's Capital By Adriana Kugler

Revisiting the Minimum Wage-Employment Debate: Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater? By David Neumark, J. M. Ian Salas, and William Wascher

The authors revisit the long-running minimum wage-employment debate to assess new studies claiming that estimates produced by the panel data approach commonly used in recent minimum wage research are flawed by that approach's failure to account for spatial heterogeneity. The new studies use research designs intended to control for this heterogeneity and conclude that minimum wages in the United States have not reduced employment. The authors explore the ability of the new research designs to isolate reliable identifying information, and they test the designs' untested assumptions about the construction of better control groups. Their analysis reveals problems with the new research designs. Moreover, using methods that let the data identify the appropriate control groups, their results reaffirm the evidence of disemployment effects, with teen employment elasticities near 0.15. This evidence, they conclude, still shows that minimum wages pose a tradeoff of higher wages for some against job losses for others.

Is the Minimum Wage a Pull Factor for Immigrants? By Corrado Giulietti

In this article, the author studies the effects of the minimum wage on immigration. He develops an analytical framework in which immigration is a function of the expected wage in the region of destination. In the analysis, the author exploits the state variation in expected wages stemming from the changes in the U.S. federal minimum wage during 1996-1997 and 2007-2009. The author addresses endogeneity between immigration and the expected wage using an instrumental variable approach. His results provide consistent evidence that the policy induced a sizeable flow of low-skilled immigrants to the United States in both periods. This pull is attributable to the minimum wage increasing immigrants' wages without harming their potential employment outcomes. The author corroborates these findings by showing that the policy did not have any impact on the flow of high-skilled immigrants. The effect on low-skilled immigration is also found when the interstate mobility of immigrants is considered. Finally, changes in the minimum wage only attracted legal immigrants, while undocumented immigrants were not affected.

Putting Data to Work for Workers: The Role of Information Technology in U.S. Worker Protection Agencies By Alison D. Morantz

The adoption by the Department of Labor (DOL) of new Strategic Goals in 2010 represented an important turning point in its history. In a more thoroughgoing fashion than ever before, DOL has embraced the principle that outcomes and impacts, not outputs, are the criteria by which its worker protection efforts should be judged. The Department's recently adopted New Approach specifies that rigorous data analysis and program evaluation, informed by social scientific research methods, are now the preferred metrics for quantifying the Department's effects on the regulated community. Notably absent from the Agency's public documentation, however, is any detailed evaluation of the role of information technology in supporting its enforcement agenda. In this article, the author seeks to fill this void by describing how a comprehensive reevaluation of DOL's data infrastructure and IT capabilities could further the principles embodied in the New Approach. She proposes four criteria-quality, scope, accessibility, and interconnectivity-for assessing the performance of each regulatory IT system; enumerates ways in which each criterion can be observed and measured; identifies ways in which DOL's current data systems fall short; and suggests promising avenues for reform. The author also highlights important barriers that impede systemic IT change and suggests ways in which they might be overcome.

The Impact of Client Nonpayment on the Income of Contingent Workers: Evidence from the Freelancers Union Independent Worker Survey By William M. Rodgers III, Sara Horowitz, and Gabrielle Wuolo

The authors use the Freelancers Union's annual Independent Worker Survey (IWS) from 2007 to 2011, the union's administrative membership file, and the American Community Survey to estimate the extent to which client nonpayment of independent workers is a problem and the ability of a written contract to reduce the odds of nonpayment. They develop tests for nonresponse and sample selection biases, although due to a lack of instrumental variables and contract endogeneity, they must speculate on the size of the bias. They find that contract use is associated with income that is 13.7% higher (for New York State respondents 21.7% higher) than income produced without a contract. They also find that contract use reduces nonpayment; however, even when a contract is used, 38.8% of respondents still had trouble getting paid: One-third were paid late, and 10% percent were either paid less than the agreed upon amount or were never paid.

Offshoring and the Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market By Lindsay Oldenski

Using firm-level data on offshoring paired with occupation-level data on employment and wages, the author estimates the impact that offshoring has had on U.S. workers from 2002 to 2008. She finds that offshoring by U.S. firms has contributed to relative gains for the most high-skilled workers and relative losses for middle-skilled workers. An increase in offshoring in an industry is associated with an increase in the wage gap between workers at the 75th percentile and workers with median earnings in that industry, and with a decrease in the gap between workers earning the median wages and those at the 25th percentile. This pattern can be explained by the tasks performed by workers. Offshoring is associated with a decrease in wages for occupations that rely heavily on routine tasks and an increase in wages if the occupation is nonroutine and communication-task intensive. The results hold in both ordinary least squares (OLS) and instrumental variable specifications.

I Don't Like Mondays: Explaining Monday Work Injury Claims By Richard Butler, Nathan Kleinman, and Hank Gardner

More workers' compensation claims for soft-tissue injuries are filed on Monday than on any other day of the week. Explanations for the Monday claims include "warm-up" or ergonomic effects, false classification of off-the-job weekend due to economic incentives, or psychological responses to Monday work. To sort out these possibilities, the authors examine more than 200,000 employment day patterns for a single, large U.S. employer with uniform human resource policies. Although the authors find more soft-tissue injury claims (mostly sprains and strains) filed for younger workers, union members, and for workers with higher expected workers' compensation benefits, they do not find that these factors-nor the absence of health insurance-differentially increase soft-tissue injury filings on Monday. Moreover, comparing soft-tissue injuries with lacerations and broken-bone claims suggests soft tissues are not due to ergonomic factors either. Additional evidence suggests that workers simply do not like Monday work. Hence, it may be cost-effective for employers and employees to institute practices that make the Monday workplace more attractive.

Book Reviews

The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It. By David Weil. Reviewed by Thomas A. Kochan.

Rethinking Workplace Regulation: Beyond the Standard Contract of Employment. Edited by Katherine V. W. Stone and Harry Arthurs. Reviewed by Manfred Weiss.

Immigration, Poverty, and Socioeconomic Inequality. Edited by David Card and Steven Raphael. Reviewed by Corrado Giulietti.

Documenting Desegregation: Racial and Gender Segregation in Private Sector Employment since the Civil Rights Act. By Kevin Stainback and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey. Reviewed by Julie A. Kmec.

Unfinished Business: Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of US Work-Family Policy. By Ruth Milkman and Eileen Appelbaum. Reviewed by Candace Howes.

People with Disabilities: Sidelined or Mainstreamed? By Lisa Schur, Douglas Kruse, and Peter Blanck. Reviewed by Linda Barrington.