Unlucky Cohorts: Estimating the Long-Term Effects of Entering the Labor Market in a Recession in Large Cross-Sectional Data Sets

A new publication by Hannes Schwandt (GPEFM ’12) in the Journal of Labor Economics

Hannes Schwandt (GPEFM ’12) is Assistant Professor of Economics at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, currently visiting Stanford University’s Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR). His paper, “Unlucky Cohorts: Estimating the Long-term Effects of Entering the Labor Market in a Recession in Large Cross-sectional Data Sets” (with Till von Wachter) has just been published in the January 2019 issue of the Journal of Labor Economics. The paper has garnered attention from major media outlets including The Economist and The Financial Times.

Abstract

This paper studies the differential persistent effects of initial economic conditions for labor market entrants in the United States from 1976 to 2015 by education, gender, and race using labor force survey data. We find persistent earnings and wage reductions, especially for less advantaged entrants, that increases in government support only partly offset. We confirm that the results are unaffected by selective migration and labor market entry by also using a double-weighted average unemployment rate at labor market entry for each birth cohort and state-of-birth cell based on average state migration rates and average cohort education rates from census data.

Media attention

See how media outlets covered this paper (subscription may be required):

Mothers’ Care: Reversing Early Childhood Health Shocks through Parental Investments

Working paper co-authored by Barcelona GSE alum Cristina Bellés-Obrero (Economics ’12, GPEFM ’17)

Adult and baby holding hands

Barcelona GSE alum Cristina Bellés-Obrero (Economics ’12, GPEFM ’17) has co-authored a new working paper with Antonio Cabrales (UCL), Sergi Jiménez-Martín (UPF and Barcelona GSE) and Judit Vall-Castello (CRES-UPF) on “Mothers’ Care: Reversing Early Childhood Health Shocks through Parental Investments.”

Cristina shares a summary of the paper and some notes about the writing process:

The paper

Health shocks at birth are important in and of themselves. But they also have an impact on outcomes later in life, such as education, productivity or adult health.  There is a large literature showing that health shocks at birth lead to important negative outcomes later on.  For instance, children born with low birth weight have a higher probability of having adverse health and developmental outcomes in the medium run (Johnson and Schoemi (2011a,b), Case et al. (2005)).  However, there is much less research on the potential factors that can compensate those early life shocks. This represents an important element with strong implications for policy makers. 

In this paper, jointly with Antonio Cabrales, Sergi Jimenez and Judit Vall, we identify one of these factors.  In particular, we want to answer the following question: Are educated parents able to reverse a negative health shock that their children experience at birth?

To answer this question we study the causal effect of a child labor regulation on the short and long-term health of the affected individuals’ descendants. In 1980 a child labor reform took place in Spain, which increased the minimum legal age to work from 14 to 16 years old. A previous paper shows that this reform increased the education of both women and men. At the same time, the reform decreased the fertility and marriage rates of individuals affected, and importantly, it was detrimental for their male children’s health at delivery. At birth, male babies from more educated mothers have worse perinatal health outcomes, such as lower birth weight or low maturity. We estimated that the reform caused 618 more births at less than 37 weeks of gestation, 837 more first multiple births, and 768 extra births with low birth weight. On the other hand, we do not find the same negative impact of the reform over female babies. 

Given the size of the effects that we find on birth outcomes and the established links between health at birth and long-term health, we would expect that the deterioration of infant health at birth would persist in the medium and long term unless there is a compensation mechanism. Yet, in the medium run, we find that the effects of the reform on objective health outcomes are insignificant for both males and females. Thus, we can conclude that educated parents can reverse negative shocks at birth.

Our data suggest that the long term reversal is achieved through maternal vigilance. The male children of treated mothers with higher education are perceived as having worse health even at older ages. Their objective health status is, however, indistinguishable from that of other boys. This suggests more concerned mothers. These boys are also more likely to have private health insurance. This latter trait is significant. In Spain private health insurance is purchased in addition to the universal public health coverage. This double coverage allows beneficiaries to avoid the system gatekeeper and, hence, to have quicker access to specialists and additional tests and checkups. 

The process

We started this paper in 2017 as a follow-up project. In a previous paper, Elena Del Rey, Sergi Jimenez and Judit Vall analyze the effects of the child labor reform over education and labor market outcomes. They find that the reform increased the educational attainment of both men and women affected by the regulation. In particular, they find that the reform reduced the number of early school leavers (individuals not finishing compulsory education) by 7.6% in the case of men, and by 11% in the case of women. They also find a positive effect in the probability of attaining post-compulsory education. The reform decreased the number of individuals that do not attain any level of post-compulsory education by 3.3% for men and 2.7% for women.. 

In a different paper, we show that the reform decreased marriage and fertility rates for affected women. At the same time, we also find evidence that the reform is detrimental for the health of the offspring at the moment of delivery. We document three channels contributing to this detrimental effect: the postponement in age of delivery, the increase in single mothers, and the increase in the likelihood that those women engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking.

Thus, the reform had a positive effect on the parents, that are now more educated, but a detrimental effect on their children’s health at the moment of delivery. This reform, then, constitute a perfect setting to analyze parent’s education as a possible factor that will allow the reversal of negative health shocks at birth. 

Feedback rating to decrease bribery: Evidence from the Kyrgyz Republic

Research by Francesco Amodio ’10 (Economics) and co-authors at The World Bank and Barcelona GSE

Kyrgyz currency

Francesco Amodio ’10 (Economics) co-authored this article for VoxDev with Barcelona GSE Research Professor Giacomo De Giorgi along with World Bank economists Jieun Choi and Aminur Rahman. In the article, the team gives an overview of a field experiment they conducted and theoretical model they developed that describes the interaction between firms and inspectors.

“In collaboration with the World Bank Group and the State Tax Service of the Kyrgyz Republic, we designed an incentive scheme for tax inspectors that rewards them based on the anonymous evaluation submitted by inspected firms. In theory, this should increase the bargaining power of firms in their relationship with tax officials, and decrease the bribe size. However, if firms pay bribes instead of taxes, bribes can increase on the extensive margin, and tax revenues could decrease.”

They found that anonymous rating of inspectors can decrease bribes and increase tax revenues as long as it takes into account market structure considerations.

Read the full article and find links to the research on VoxDev

Francesco Amodio is a graduate of the Barcelona GSE Master’s Program in Economics and the GPEFM PhD Program (UPF and Barcelona GSE). He is currently Assistant Professor of Economics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Follow him on Twitter or visit his website

Money is a social contract

Brian Albrecht ’14 (Economics of Public Policy) offers both a normative and a positive view

Shaking hands and stacks of dollars

Brian Albrecht is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota and a graduate of the Barcelona GSE Master’s Program in Economics of Public Policy, as well as a past editor of the Barcelona GSE Voice. He is also a contributor to the Sound Money Project, a blog from the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER).

In two recent articles, he talks about money as a social contract, both from a normative and a positive perspective:

“Both monetary theory and social contract theory consider a hypothetical situation (a model) in which people in a society come together and collectively agree on some social institution. I have argued that both social contract theorists and monetary theorists use these hypotheticals to draw normative conclusions about what types of institutions are preferable. However, part of monetary theory is also concerned with the positive (i.e., not normative) question “Where does money come from?” In a similar way, part of social contract theory is concerned with the positive question “Where does the state come from?”

Read both of Brian’s articles over on the AIER website:

He writes regularly for the site, so be sure to check out his previous work there as well!

Brian is on Twitter and his website is here

Aishwarya Deshpande ’18 writes on Behavioral Development Economics

Economics alum Aishwarya Deshpande ’18 has written an article for Behavioral Scientist magazine.

Photo credit: Ruben Bagues/Unsplash

In honor of Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler’s famous book Nudge turning 10, Aishwarya Deshpande (Economics ’18) writes in Behavioral Scientist magazine about the emerging subfield in development economics, namely behavioral development economics. The subfield aims to incorporate insights informed by behavioral science to address issues of persistent inequality, poverty alleviation and welfare.

Aishwarya had the pleasure of reading various academic papers that addressed these issues with innovative approaches in preparation for the essay. She finds that ‘last mile’ between intention and action can be bridged by understanding the limitations of the human mind, which potentially has many policymaking implications.

Excerpt:

Behavioral science has come a long way in the past 50 years. While many of the early, pioneering studies took place in sanitized “lab” environments, with subjects from Western countries, the past decade has seen an explosion of behavioral science research in the messier environment of the developing world. This work has given us greater insight into how and why the world’s poorest populations make the decisions they do. But perhaps more importantly, this work has allowed behavioral scientists to directly improve the well-being of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.

Read the full article on Behavioral Scientist

Aishwarya Deshpande is a student in the Master of Brain and Cognition Program at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). She holds a Master’s in Economics from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. Follow her on Twitter

CNN interview with Miguel Angel Santos (ITFD ’11, ECON ’12) on the crisis in Venezuela

Miguel Angel Santos was interviewed on CNN’s Global Portfolio where he shared his analysis of the economic crisis in Venezuela.

Master’s alum Miguel Angel Santos was interviewed on CNN’s Global Portfolio where he shared his analysis of the economic crisis in Venezuela. From his post on LinkedIn:

“The collapse of Venezuela has a magnitude never before seen: it is the only country in the top ten of falls in GDP in five years in history (ninth, 45%), of falls in imports (third, 75%), and is also projected as one of the most intense hyperinflations in history, comparable only to Germany and Zimbabwe. There is no country on those three lists which has suffered collapses in imports, production, and hyperinflation at this level of intensity. It’s unprecedented.”

 

Miguel Angel is a graduate of both the Barcelona GSE Master’s Program in International Trade, Finance, and Development and the Master’s Program in Economics. He is now Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University.

The new wealth of our nation: the case for a citizen’s inheritance

George Bangham (Economics of Public Policy ’17) is an economic researcher at the Resolution Foundation, a London-based think-tank that carries out research and policy analysis to improve the living standards of people in the UK on low and middle incomes.

report cover

George Bangham (Economics of Public Policy ’17) is an economic researcher at the Resolution Foundation, a London-based think-tank that carries out research and policy analysis to improve the living standards of people in the UK on low and middle incomes. In recent years the Foundation has been influential in advocating for a living wage and for policymakers to consider the intergenerational impact of public policy. George’s own work focuses on labour markets and social security policy, with his recent publications covering issues from working hours to tax reform.

One of his recent papers, “The new wealth of our nation: the case for a citizen’s inheritance,” has received international attention in the media and was featured in an article in La Vanguardia newspaper this May.

Report summary:

The Intergenerational Commission has identified two major trends affecting young adults today, beside the weak performance of their incomes and earnings, which barely featured in political debate for much of the 20thcentury. The first is that risk is being transferred from firms and government to families and individuals, in their jobs, their pensions and the houses they live in. The second is that assets are growing in importance as a determinant of people’s living standards, and asset ownership is becoming concentrated within older generations – on average only those born before 1960 have benefited from Britain’s wealth boom to the extent that they have been able to improve on the asset accumulation of their predecessors. Both trends risk weakening the social contract between the generations that the state has a duty to uphold, as well as undermining the notion that individuals have a fair opportunity to acquire wealth by their own efforts during their working lives.

This paper, the 22nd report for the Intergenerational Commission, makes the case for the UK to adopt a citizen’s inheritance – a universal sum of money made available to every young person when they reach the age of 25 to address some of the key risks they face – as a central component of a policy programme to renew the intergenerational contract that underpins society.

Policy recommendations from the report:

  1. From 2030, citizen’s inheritances of £10,000 should be available from the age of 25 to all British nationals or people born in Britain as restricted-use cash grants, at a cost of £7 billion per year.
  2. To reflect the experiences of those who entered the labour market during and since the financial crisis, and to minimise cliff edges between recipients and non-recipients, the introduction of citizen’s inheritances should be phased in, starting with 34 and 35 year olds receiving £1,000 in 2020. Each subsequent year, citizen’s inheritance amounts should then rise and be paid to younger groups, until the policy reaches a steady-state in 2030 when it is paid to 25 year olds only from then on.
  3. The citizen’s inheritance should have four permitted uses: funding education and training or paying off tuition fee debt; deposits for rental or home purchase; investment in pensions; and start-up costs for new businesses that are also being supported through recognised entrepreneurship schemes.
  4. The citizen’s inheritance should be funded principally by the new lifetime receipts tax, with additional revenues from terminating existing matched savings schemes – the Help to Buy and Lifetime ISAs.

Visit the Resolution Foundation’s website to download the full report

Press release from the Intergenerational Commission

Connect with George on LinkedIn

Barcelona GSE Master’s in Economics of Public Policy

Economics articles by BGSE alumni at CaixaBank Research

Ricard Murillo, Marta Guasch, and Mar Domènech in front of Caixabank. Photo by Marta Guasch.

We’ve just come across some articles written by several Barcelona GSE Alumni who are now Research Assistants and Economists at Caixabank Research in Barcelona. New articles are published each month on a range of topics.

Below is a list of all the alumni we found listed as article contributors, as well as their most recent publications in English (click each author to view his or her full list of articles in English, Catalan, and Spanish).

If you’re an alum and you’re also writing about Economics, let us know where we can find your stuff!

Gerard Arqué (Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets ’09)

The (r)evolution in the regulatory and supervisory framework resulting from the crisis

Mar Domènech (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)

Registered workers affiliated to Social Security: situation and outlook across sectors

Active labour market policies: a results-based evaluation

Equal opportunities: levelling the playing field for everyone

Cristina Farràs (Master’s in Macroeconomic Policy and Financial Markets ’17)

The financial situation of Millennial households in the US and Spain: will they catch up with previous generations?

Measures to improve equality of opportunities

Marta Guasch (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)
and Adrià Morron (Master’s in Economics ’12)

Jay Gatsby’s American Dream: between inequality and social mobility

Ricard Murillo (Master’s in International Trade, Finance, and Development ’17)

Inflation will gradually recover in the euro area

Millenials and politics: mind the gap!

The sensitivity of inflation to the euro’s appreciation

Ariadna Vidal Martínez (Master’s in Finance ’12)

Situation and outlook for consumer financing


Source: Caixabank Research

The Implications of Declining Firm-Level Uncertainty for Consumption Variety and Cities (Unicredit & Universities Job Market Best Paper Award)

alumni

Editor’s note: In this post, Federica Daniele (Economics ’13 and PhD candidate at UPF-GPEFM) shares a summary of her paper, “The Implications of Declining Firm-Level Uncertainty for Consumption Variety and Cities,” which has won the 2017 UniCredit & Universities Economics Job Market Best Paper Award. She also offers some advice to aspiring PhD students in the Barcelona GSE Master’s programs.


Paper summary

There is something alarming about the direction in which firm dynamics have been changing over the course of the last decades. Today it’s much rarer to encounter firms that undergo large up/downsizings than it used to be in the past: in other words, firms have become more tied to their rank in the firm size distribution. This has been of concern for many economists, who see this happening jointly with a slowdown in aggregate productivity growth and competitiveness. Being aware that the question on the drivers behind this trend and its consequences was still open to debate, coupled with an interest for entrepreneurship, is what pushed me to dive into this topic to better our understanding of the issue in my paper, “The Implications of Declining Firm-Level Uncertainty for Consumption Variety and Cities.”

An explanation for the decline in business dynamism consistent with the data is that technological change has caused the degree of idiosyncratic uncertainty that firms routinely face about their chances to grow to go down. This implies that today most of the return from starting a firm is determined by its initial (in)success as opposed to luck in the development of the business over its life-cycle. Based on evidence drawn from data on the universe of German establishments, in the paper I argue that a reduction in firm-level uncertainty is consistent with lower incentives for potential entrepreneurs to start a new business. My paper offers a new insight into the literature on the role of uncertainty for economic activity: some degree of uncertainty is beneficial, because – by unlocking the opportunity for a given firm to grow large out of fortuitous events (such as a favourable demand turn) – it encourages entrepreneurship. In this sense, my paper provides a defence of the classical argument by Frank Knight according to which risk-taking is a characterising feature of entrepreneurship.

A deficit in the growth rate of the stock of establishments triggered by a decline in firm-level uncertainty is cause of concern for multiple reasons. In my paper, I investigate the importance of two dimensions: first of all, the fact that consumers get to consume a less wide variety of goods than otherwise; and secondly, the fact that, being the loss in entrepreneurship larger in big cities, fewer consumers find appealing to move to large cities than otherwise, thus diminishing the extent of positive spillovers due to higher urban density. Another outcome of interest would have been, for example, the process of innovation within an industry.

All in all, the contribution of this paper consists of assessing both empirically and theoretically novel long-run consequences on economic activity of declining firm-level uncertainty.

Advice for future PhD students

I think Barcelona GSE masters students who are considering going the PhD / academic career route should be strategic. There is no harm in taking one year to do some exploratory work, working as RA, for example, for some good professor, if that buys the time to figure out what kind of research best matches your interests, in which institution you would feel better fulfilled, or whether academia suits you at all.

In the end, if you choose to pursue the academic route, you will have most certainly achieved a better match with the institution/supervisor, and spared a lot of time later on during the course of the PhD, which you can instead dedicate to producing research of good quality.

But even if you decide that academia is not for you, the value of the investment will still be positive, as experimenting early during one’s working career is much less costly than doing it later.

Five lessons from a one-week meeting with 18 Nobel Laureates

By Fernando Fernández (Economics ’13, GPEFM)

Photo credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting


By Fernando Fernández (Economics ’13, GPEFM) [1]


“Just when we thought we had all the answers, all the questions changed.” Mario Benedetti

That was my reaction when the 6th Lindau Meeting in Economic Sciences concluded. This meeting occurs every two years and gathers several Nobel Laureates and young economists (graduate students and assistant professors) from around the world. This meeting is certainly the most inspiring academic event I have ever attended.

The meeting took place in the beautiful town of Lindau, next to Lake Constance, in southern Germany between August 22nd and August 27th. During these days, we attended lectures from 18 Nobel laureates in Economics on a wide range of topics: bounded rationality, investment management, pension design, monetary policy, labor markets, morality and markets, political systems, innovation, and econometrics. I will not attempt to summarize these great lectures but all of them were recorded and are available on this link.

 

I would rather focus these lines on the interactions that occurred outside the “classroom”. Every day the program included lectures, lunch, seminar presentation panel discussions, and dinner.

The first lecture was given by Daniel McFadden [2], and besides the content, something really caught my attention. In the first row of the room (it was actually a theater) you could see the other Nobel Laureates. All were carefully listening to the speaker! They seemed like young students paying attention to an important professor. So the first lesson from this meeting was that we, as researchers, should actively embrace our academic curiosity.

Over lunch, I had the first opportunity to talk to a Nobel Laureate. I was sitting with some friends I just met and were talking about each others’ research. At some point, Bengt Holmstrom asked: “Would you mind if I join you?” We welcomed him, and seconds later he started asking us about our research interests. He soon realized that all of us were doing empirical work and said: “I am the only theorist in this table!”

He listened to all of us, asked some questions (some of them were hard to answer) and even gave us some advice. I was able to confirm that these brilliant economists have a special talent to listen to others, even if they are PhD students struggling with their papers. He was very generous with his time and recommended us to work hard but only on topics that we really cared about. He also advised us not to focus on publishing papers but instead on gaining respect from our peers through our work.

Hours later, I had the chance to sit on the table with Eric Maskin for dinner. He told us about the day he received the call from Stockholm and found out he won the Nobel prize. Then, we talked about US politics, big data, increasing co-authorship in economic journals, and other current issues in academia. As you can imagine, when you are sitting next to a Nobel Laureate you get the feeling that you can ask him any question. Well, these questions (some of them unrelated to economics) arrived and Maskin, very modestly, said : “I know very little about this particular topic, so I cannot have an informed opinion. In fact, you should know that one wins the Nobel prize, not because you know everything, but because you specialize in certain specific topics”. His reaction really impressed me but he was right. He could not be an expert in every topic and he acknowledged it. How many times do we feel the need to have an opinion on everything? The second lesson from this meeting is that we must always acknowledge our limitations and be humble enough to don’t give uninformed opinions.

One of the big questions most PhD students have is the following: where do great ideas come from? Tirole, Hart and Holmstrom provided some light on this issue and their advice was the third lesson. Tirole said two great sources of ideas were talking to people around you (his office was next to Hart’s) and to people outside the academia (practitioners, policy makers and business men). He encouraged us to talk to practitioners because they are facing the real problems we must address, that they have many important questions that remained unanswered and deserve our attention. Holmstrom said that the idea of his well-known model of career concerns (one of the reasons he was awarded with the Nobel prize) came when he has working in a plant in Finland, and had some problems with his manager. He then went to do his PhD and wrote a model to explain the behavior of this manager. In addition, he recommended us to become experts in the literature of our field of interest, not to follow it but to depart from it. After this, Hart said that working with Holmstrom and Tirole was a great way to find ideas. He also suggested us that when doing theoretical work, we should keep models as simple as possible.

James Heckman’s lecture was about the identification problem in econometrics. He was the most enthusiastic person I have ever seen giving an econometrics lecture. And this enthusiasm was quite contagious. Even though he was talking about highly technical and complex conditions for a new interpretation of Instrumental Variable (IV) estimates, I was surprisingly able to follow his lecture and understand the contribution he was making. Or, at least that’s the impression I had. That same day, we had a Bavarian dinner at night, with traditional music, food, and of course, beer. This was the last night of the event and the time to say good-bye to other fellow economists.

The coolest table at the Bavarian dinner

After some drinks, I decided to walk back to my hotel, located around 50-minutes away from the place we had dinner. On my way, I ran into Heckman, who seemed a bit confused. He had been walking with other young economists and then he was not sure where to go. I approached him and we realized we had to walk in the same direction. This was quite a unique and unexpected opportunity to talk about his lecture. So I started with my questions and he replied to all of them with great patience and enthusiasm. I could confirmed I had actually understood his lecture. Then, we started talking about the rapid increase in data availability and how big data should influence econometrics. He also told me good stories about his last trip to Barcelona and Peru. Eventually, we arrived at the hotel and said good-bye. This great conversation was the fourth lesson: we should remain enthusiastic even after years of dealing (doing research or teaching) with the same subject.

The fifth lesson is that these people seem very happy doing their jobs. Yes, I know, they are Nobel Laureates, they have already accomplished important professional goals. But it is still surprising how much they enjoy doing research. During lunch time or dinner, when we were able to talk to them more informally, people would usually ask: Which are the questions we should tackle? What fields are relevant now? Most Nobel Laureates seemed to share the view that the relevant questions are the ones you really care about. And if they actually work according to this view, it is not that hard to understand why they look like if they were having fun all the time.

When I was heading to this meeting, I had a lot of questions in my mind and thought the meeting would be an ideal place to get answers. During the meeting, some of my questions were being answered but later I realized that getting answers was not so important. Once the meeting was over, I realized all the lessons I took from it were unexpected. I had misunderstood the purpose of this meeting. I should have not come to the meeting looking for answers. I should have come looking for questions. These highly talented economists are Nobel Laureates precisely because they are extremely good at raising questions. Questions that open new streams of work. Questions that people had overlooked but that deserve careful thinking and attention. Now, two months after the meeting, I realize that all the questions raised by these Nobel Laureates are the reason why this event was so inspiring. Because in research that’s what keeps us working: Questions!


[1] I am thankful to the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship (through the PODER network) for sponsoring my participation in the meeting.

[2] Before McFadden’s lecture, there was a keynote address by Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank.