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Author:Aaronson, Stephanie 

Working Paper
Labor Force Participation: Recent Developments and Future Prospects
Since 2007, the labor force participation rate has fallen from about 66 percent to about 63 percent. The sources of this decline have been widely debated among academics and policymakers, with some arguing that the participation rate is depressed due to weak labor demand while others argue that the decline was inevitable due to structural forces such as the aging of the population. In this paper, we use a variety of approaches to assess reasons for the decline in participation. Although these approaches yield somewhat different estimates of the extent to which the recent decline in participation reflects cyclical weakness rather than structural factors, our overall assessment is that much?but not all?of the decline in the labor force participation rate since 2007 is structural in nature. As a result, while we see some of the current low level of the participation rate as indicative of labor market slack, we do not expect the participation rate to show a substantial increase from current levels as labor market conditions continue to improve.
AUTHORS: Aaronson, Stephanie; Cajner, Tomaz; Fallick, Bruce C.; Galbis-Reig, Felix; Smith, Christopher L.; Wascher, William L.
DATE: 2014-09-10

Working Paper
The rise in lifetime earnings inequality among men
Recent trends in lifetime earnings inequality in the United States have been barely explored, despite the fact that lifetime earnings are a better measure of access to resources than the more widely studied annual earnings. This paper demonstrates that lifetime earnings inequality has increased over the past 30 years. We first explore how starting wages and wage growth have changed over time and link the changes to trends in lifetime earnings and the lifetime skill-premium. We then calculated a broader measure of lifetime earnings inequality and show that since the late 1960s, lifetime earnings inequality has increased by a third. Between the late 1960s and mid-1970s a rise in within-education-group inequality more than accounts for the increase; since then the growth in between-education-group inequality accounted for a majority of the rise. These results are consonant with the data on starting wages and wage growth. Finally, we show that the increase in inequality has been largely driven by greater dispersion in hourly wages, although declining hours of work among low-education young men did play a role. The analysis uses data from the March Current Population Survey as well as matched CPS data. Thus we demonstrate how repeated cross-sections and short panels of data can be used to examine issues usually reserved for long panels.
AUTHORS: Aaronson, Stephanie
DATE: 2002

Working Paper
How biased are measures of cyclical movements in productivity and hours?
The movement of hours worked over the business cycle is an important input into the estimation of many key parameters in macroeconomics. Unfortunately, the available data on hours do not correspond precisely to the concept required for accurate inference. We study one source of mismeasurement--that the most commonly used source data measure hours paid instead of hours worked--focusing our attention on salaried workers, a group for whom the gap between hours paid and hours worked is likely particularly large. We show that the measurement gap varies significantly and positively with changes in labor demand. As a result, we estimate that the standard deviations of the workweek and of total hours worked are 25 and 6 percent larger, respectively, than standard measures of hours suggest. We also find that this measurement gap is an unlikely source of the acceleration in published measures of productivity since 2000.
AUTHORS: Figura, Andrew; Aaronson, Stephanie
DATE: 2005

Working Paper
Are firms or workers behind the shift away from DB pension plan?
One of the most striking changes in the composition of household retirement savings over the past 20 years has been the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans. Understanding the factors underlying this shift is important for determining its impact on retirement saving adequacy. Yet previous research, which has mostly focused on factors affecting all firms, such as regulation or increased longevity, has yielded little consensus. In this study we estimate the contribution of changing workforce characteristics and production environments to the shift in pension coverage. Our findings suggest that, while aggregate factors explain a large part of the movement, changes in worker demand, due to evolving workforce characteristics, also contributed notably. On the supply side, we find support for the theory that technical change has reduced the value of DB plans. These supply and demand factors are particularly important for explaining the significant variation in cross-industry trends in pension coverage.
AUTHORS: Aaronson, Stephanie; Coronado, Julia Lynn
DATE: 2005

Working Paper
Okun Revisited: Who Benefits Most from a Strong Economy
Previous research has shown that the labor market experiences of less advantaged groups are more cyclically sensitive than the labor market experiences of more advantaged groups; in other words, less advantaged groups experience a high-beta version of the aggregate fluctuations in the labor market. For example, when the unemployment rate of whites increases by 1 percentage point, the unemployment rates of African Americans and Hispanics rise by well more than 1 percentage point, on average. This behavior is observed across other labor-market indicators, and is roughly reversed when the unemployment rate declines. We update this work to include the post-Great Recession period and extend the analysis to consider whether these high-beta relationships change when the labor market is especially tight. We find suggestive evidence that when the labor market is already strong, a further increment of strengthening provides a modest extra benefit to some disadvantaged groups, relative to earlier in the labor-market cycle. In addition, we provide preliminary evidence suggesting that these gains are somewhat persistent for African Americans and women.
AUTHORS: Aaronson, Stephanie; Daly, Mary C.; Wascher, William L.; Wilcox, David W.
DATE: 2019-09-24

Working Paper
Labor Force Participation: Recent Developments and Future Prospects
Since 2007, the labor force participation rate has fallen from about 66 percent to about 63 percent. The sources of this decline have been widely debated among academics and policymakers, with some arguing that the participation rate is depressed due to weak labor demand while others argue that the decline was inevitable due to structural forces such as the aging of the population. In this paper, we use a variety of approaches to assess reasons for the decline in participation. Although these approaches yield somewhat different estimates of the extent to which the recent decline in participation reflects cyclical weakness rather than structural factors, our overall assessment is that much - but not all - of the decline in the labor force participation rate since 2007 is structural in nature. As a result, while we see some of the current low level of the participation rate as indicative of labor market slack, we do not expect the participation rate to show a substantial increase from current levels as labor market conditions continue to improve.
AUTHORS: Aaronson, Stephanie; Cajner, Tomaz; Fallick, Bruce C.; Galbis-Reig, Felix; Smith, Christopher L.; Wascher, William L.
DATE: 2014-09-01

Working Paper
Looking ahead: young men, wage growth, and labor market participation
Despite the long economic expansion, employment among young men is lower today than it was in the late 1960s. This decline has been largely driven by a 17 percentage point reduction in the proportion of high school dropouts working even a single week per year. One common explanation for this trend, declining real wages, ignores the fact that the value of working today depends on future returns to experience. This paper estimates a model of labor supply with returns to experience as an explanatory variable, using data from the Current Population Survey. The classic myopic labor supply model (in which only the current wage matters) is rejected in favor of one that includes forward-looking considerations, embodied in returns to experience. For high school dropouts, decreasing returns to experience explain 30 percent of the decline in participation between 1967 and 1977. Changes in wages do not explain any of this trend.
AUTHORS: Aaronson, Stephanie
DATE: 2001

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