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Census Bureau Economists to Present at American Economic Association and Allied Social Science Association Annual Meetings

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U.S. Census Bureau economists will present the results from their research at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association (AEA) and the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) set to be held virtually Jan. 3-5, 2021. This meeting brings together more than 13,000 economists and scholars from related fields from around the world and showcases current research in economics. Census Bureau economists will also serve as discussants of papers in their fields of expertise.

This year’s AEA/ASSA meeting includes 30 papers by Census Bureau researchers, presenting recent findings in the following areas.

Poverty and Program Participation. By combining data from Census Bureau surveys with administrative data from federal and state agencies, our researchers are able to conduct innovative research on poverty and participation in safety net programs.

  • The Poverty Reduction and Targeting of the United States Safety Net (Meyer, Wu, Finley and Medalia) employs data from the Comprehensive Income Dataset, which links data from Census Bureau surveys, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax records, and various federal and state agencies on program participation to analyze poverty reduction and obtain a comprehensive picture of the families who receive transfer dollars.
  • Learning about Homelessness Using Linked Survey and Administrative Data (Meyer, Wyse, Grunwaldt, Medalia and Wu) examines the characteristics, labor market attachment, geographic mobility, earnings, and safety net utilization of individuals experiencing homelessness to better understand their economic well-being and better incorporate them into income and poverty estimates.
  • Working for Your Bread: The Labor Supply Effects of Food Assistance Programs (Bitler, Cook and Rothbaum) combines Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administrative records for 24 states with the Detailed Earnings Records from the Social Security Administration to examine whether SNAP recipients adjust labor supply to maximize SNAP benefits or to pass SNAP maximum income tests.
  • Addressing SNAP Under-Reporting to Evaluate Poverty (Fox, Rothbaum and Shantz) uses SNAP data from eight states to impute “true” SNAP participation nationwide and shows how Supplemental Poverty Measure estimates are affected by this correction for underreporting.
  • The Antipoverty Impact of the EITC: New Estimates From Survey and Administrative Tax Records (Jones and Ziliak) links data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and IRS tax records and finds that significantly more Earned Income Tax Credit payments flowed to childless tax units than predicted by tax simulators and to families well above official poverty thresholds.
  • Incorporating Administrative Data in Survey Weights for the Survey of Income and Program Participation (Eggleston and Westra) utilizes data from administrative records to construct new survey weights for the Survey of Income and Program Participation and shows they result in a small increase in estimated economic well-being.

Businesses and Business Dynamics. The Census Bureau has a long tradition of using microdata to study businesses and business dynamics. This year’s conference will feature several recent research papers in this area.

  • The Productivity Job Ladder (Haltiwanger, Hyatt, McEntarfer and Staiger) uses linked employer-employee data to show that job-to-job moves generally reallocate employment to more productive firms and that recessions have both cleansing and sullying effects.
  • Immigration and Entrepreneurship in the United States (Azoulay, Jones, Kim and Miranda) studies the role of immigrants in entrepreneurship and finds that immigrants are as much “job creators” as “job takers” and that non-U.S. born founders play outsized roles in high-growth entrepreneurship in the United States.
  • Between Firm Changes in Earnings Inequality: The Dominant Role of Industry Effects (Spletzer and Haltiwanger) finds that most of the rising between-firm earnings inequality that dominates the overall increase in inequality is accounted for by industry effects, stemming from rising inter-industry earnings differentials, which are almost completely accounted for by occupation effects.
  • Cyclical Labor Market Sorting (Hyatt, Crane and Murray) uses linked employer-employee data to examine whether high or low productivity workers and firms tend to match with each other and how this varies over the business cycle.
  • Financial Structure and Volatility of Firms (Dinlersoz, Kalemli-Ozcan, Quadrini and Penciakova) utilizes a cross section of privately owned firms in the United States and finds that more leveraged firms display higher operational volatility in terms of sales, earnings and profits.
  • Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses and People: Lessons from the Census Bureau’s Experience (Buffington, Fields and Foster) describes how the Census Bureau worked to enhance the stability, timeliness and relevance of its data products in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including additional survey content and increased series frequency.

Income and Employment. Using data from Census Bureau surveys, often blended with similar and complementary data from administrative records, several papers examine income and employment outcomes.

  • Do Older Americans Still Have More Income Than We Think? Evidence from the CPS ASEC Redesign (Bee and Mitchell) finds that the median household income for householders over age 65 was 30% higher when using administrative income records compared to the Current Population Survey (CPS), with the discrepancy mainly attributable to underreporting of retirement income from defined benefit pensions and retirement account withdrawals.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Measurement Error, Nonresponse and Administrative Mismatch in the CPS (Bollinger, Hirsch, Hokayem and Ziliak) investigates a relationship between item nonresponse and measurement error for earnings questions in the CPS, using data matched to Social Security Administration’s detailed earnings records.
  • Who Values Human Capitalists' Human Capital? Healthcare Spending and Physician Earnings (Polyakova, Gottlieb, Rinz, Shiplett and Udalova) examines the role of market fundamentals and the influence of government reimbursement rates on the income of physicians.
  • The Effect of Minimum Wages on Social Security Retirement Benefit Claiming and Labor Supply of Retirement-Age Individuals (Hampton and Totty) finds that individuals exposed to minimum wage increases between ages 62 and 70 delay claiming their retirement benefits relative to similar individuals in other states and their employment increases.
  • Why Is Mommy So Stressed Out? Estimating the Immediate Impact of the “COVID Shock” on Parental Attachment to the Labor Market and the Double-Bind of Mothers (Heggeness) finds that mothers working in formal labor markets kept working at the same rate as their counterparts in states with later school closures even though their domestic responsibilities grew exponentially earlier on, while fathers were much more likely to leave the labor market entirely or experience high levels of unemployment.

Research, New Technology and Innovation. Research and development and the adoption of new technologies are important drivers of economic growth. Four papers presented at this year’s conference consider different facets of innovative activity.

  • Technology and the Size and Composition of Workforce in United States Firms: First Evidence from the 2019 Annual Business Survey (Acemoglu, Andersen, Beede, Buffington, Dinlersoz, Foster, Goldschlag, Haltiwanger, Kroff, Restrepo and Zolas) uses newly available data on the adoption and use of five advanced technologies to provide initial evidence on the connection between advanced technology and the size and composition of the U.S. workforce, how technology adoption relates to firm- and industry-level employment growth and creates or destroys labor roles. It also shows which technologies complement or substitute labor and skill.
  • Long-term Effects From Early Exposure to Research: Evidence from the NIH “Yellow Berets” (Azoulay, Greenblatt and Heggeness) examines the careers of medical school graduates who applied to the Associate Training Programs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the Vietnam War and finds that program participants’ intense exposure to frontier research had a long-term effects on their research productivity.
  • Does Funding Source Matter for University R&D? The Effect of Government versus Industry Grants (Babina, He, Howell, Perlman and Staudt) finds that a higher share of federal (versus private) funding of research and development causes fewer but more general patents, much more high-tech entrepreneurship, a higher likelihood of remaining employed in academia, and a lower likelihood of joining an incumbent firm.
  • The Impacts of Open Access on Scientists, Inventors and the Public (Staudt) finds that scientists and inventors modestly increase their use of the typical biomedical article once it becomes freely available while the public substantially increases its use. 

Long-Run and Intergenerational Effects. Data that cover long time spans, including multiple generations, allow researchers to examine the long-run and intergenerational effects of socioeconomic status and public policies.

  • The Geography of Opportunity Over Time (Massey and Rothbaum) employs 1940 Census data linked to tax return information to examine geographic differences in child outcomes experienced by cohorts born nearly 50 years apart and how intergenerational persistence of status has changed over time at the national level and at smaller geographic levels.
  • The Effect of Income during Infancy: Evidence from the EITC (Barr, Eggleston and Smith) shows that income during the first year of life, in the long run, increases math and reading test scores, increases the likelihood of high school graduation, and increases earnings by 2-3% in young adulthood.
  • Gaming Opportunities: The Impact of Tribal Casinos on Economic Success and Intergenerational Mobility (Simeonova, Akee, Jones and Porter) analyzes the impact of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 on the socioeconomic status of parents and the long-run economic performance of the children from those same households.
  • Was the Arsenal of Democracy an Engine of Mobility? The World War II Industrial Expansion and the Roots of Mid-Century Manufacturing Opportunity (Garin and Rothbaum) examines the long-run effects of the publicly financed construction of large manufacturing facilities during World War II and finds that they increased manufacturing employment and average production earnings in the postwar period and causally contributed to the midcentury rise in upward mobility.

International Business and Trade. Three papers presented at the conference examine businesses engaged in multinational investment and international trade using a variety of data sources.

  • Multinational Firms in the United States Economy: Insights from New Integrated Microdata (Kamal and McCloskey) combines firm-level surveys from the Bureau of Economic Analysis on foreign direct investment in the United States and U.S. direct investment abroad with the universe of employer business in the Census Bureau’s Business Register and documents the prevalence and characteristics of multinational activity by foreign-owned and domestically owned multinationals, sector and region.
  • The United States Multinational Advantage During the Global Financial Crisis: The Role of Services Trade (Kamal and Kroff) utilizes links between Bureau of Economic Analysis multinational and services trade surveys and detailed Census Bureau administrative customs and firm-level data to examine how merchandise exports performed at U.S. multinational enterprises (MNEs) compared to non-MNEs during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.
  • The Long-Run Labor Market Implications in the United States of Permanent Normal Trade Relations With China (Schott, Pierce and Tello-Trillo) uses data from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics database to examine the long-run labor market implications of Permanent Normalized Trade Relations with China.

Geographic Differences. Large, representative databases of businesses, workers and households let our researchers document and analyze important geographic differences in the United States.

  • The Geography of Jobs (Tucker, Dorn, Schmieder and Spletzer) considers the large differences in wages and job availability across geographic labor markets within narrowly defined occupations and uses detailed information on the tasks, technologies and skills from online job postings to systematically measure how occupations differ across geographies in the tasks they perform, technologies they use, and skills and qualifications they require.
  • Re-Examining Regional Income Convergence: A Distributional Approach (Rinz, Voorheis and Walker) uses income data from tax returns linked with census and survey data to examine the patterns of regional income convergence over the last 20 years, generating measures based on the full distribution of income and analyzing potential determinants of the patterns observed.

In addition to these papers by Census Bureau authors, there will be presentations of research papers based on Census Bureau microdata, written by researchers using the Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC) network.

Census Bureau economists and our FSRDC collaborators play a key role in creating and improving statistical products essential to policymakers, businesses, researchers and the public. These products come from a variety of sources, such as survey microdata on businesses and households, linked employer-employee data, and confidential microdata from federal and state administrative and statistical agencies. Our economists apply these data to the study of a variety of topics, including the ones above, all to help improve economic measurement at the Census Bureau.

For further details on all the papers to be presented at the AEA/ASSA meeting, including a preliminary program with abstracts, visit <www.aeaweb.org/conference/2021/preliminary>.

For more information on working papers by Census Bureau and FSRDC researchers, visit <www.census.gov/topics/research/library/working-papers.html>.


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