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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 are set to present research findings at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association (AEA) and Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) January 6–8. More than 13,000 economists and other social scientists from around the world typically attend this conference, which showcases the latest research in economics.

This year’s meeting, scheduled to be held in New Orleans, includes 22 papers by Census Bureau researchers presenting findings on business outcomes, technology adoption, economic measurement, household income, earnings and employment, upward mobility, fertility, and a host of other topics. 

  • Automation and the Workforce: A Firm-Level View from the 2019 Annual Business Survey. (Acemoglu, Anderson, Beede, Buffington, Restrepo, Childress, Dinlersoz, Foster, Goldschlag, Haltiwanger, Kroff and Zolas) This paper examines the adoption of five advanced automation technologies by U.S. firms utilizing data from the 2019 Annual Business Survey. The findings: adoption of these technologies remains low, varies substantially across industries, concentrates in large and younger firms with 64% of U.S. workers, and is associated with higher wages, increased labor productivity and greater demand for skilled labor with limited or ambiguous effects on firm employment.
  • Robot Hubs: The Skewed Distribution of Robots in U.S. Manufacturing. (Brynjolfsson, Buffington, Li, Miranda, Goldschlag and Seamans) Using new data collected by the Census Bureau, these researchers find that the distribution of robots in U.S. manufacturing is surprisingly skewed across locations, even accounting for the different mix of industry and manufacturing employment. “Robot Hubs” (locations with many more robots than expected) are characterized along several industry, demographic and institutional dimensions.
  • Measuring Business Trends and Outlook through a New Survey. (Buffington) Discusses the Census Bureau’s Business Trends and Outlook Survey, a largescale, representative, high-frequency survey launched in July 2022 and built on the experiences gained from the experimental Small Business Pulse Survey, a weekly survey developed and collected during the pandemic.
  • Business Applications as Economic Indicators. (Asturias, Dinlersoz, Haltiwanger and Hutchinson) This paper explores three monthly business application series from the Census Bureau’s Business Formation Statistics and finds that one – business applications of likely employers – is a strong leading indicator of aggregate economic activity and monthly Principal Federal Economic Indicators.
  • The Role of Industry in Increasing Earnings Inequality: Reconciling Results from the CPS and the LEHD. (Haltiwanger, Hyatt and Spletzer) This paper uses survey responses from the Current Population Survey linked with administrative records from Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) matched employer-employee data and finds several key reasons why these different data sources lead to different explanations for increasing earnings inequality.
  • Reconciling Administrative Data Sources on Self-Employment Activity: A Growing Gap Between Schedule C and SE Filers. (Abraham, Haltiwanger, Hou, Sandusky and Spletzer) This paper investigates reasons for the increased gap in the self-employment rate based on Schedule C and Schedule SE filings from 2013 to 2018, including growth in the gig economy (such as self-employed individuals working with online ridesharing platforms).
  • The Measurement of Income Growth, Mobility, and Volatility in the U.S. By Race and Gender: Introducing MOVS. (Jones, Bee, Eng, Houghton and Pharris-Ciurej) Using linked demographic and tax records on U.S. workers, the Mobility, Opportunity and Volatility Statistics (MOVS) project will create detailed income statistics across demographic characteristics such as race and ethnicity and ultimately a public-use data tool that researchers may use to explore income mobility patterns in rich detail. In this paper, the authors define households and calculate household income, applying equivalence scales to create a personal income concept, and trace the progress of incomes by demographic groups via a suite of statistics on income mobility, income volatility, and related topics.
  • Credible Interval Estimates of the Size and Legal Composition of the U.S. Foreign-Born Population. (Mira and Bollinger) This paper considers nonsampling error due to item nonresponse in constructing estimates of the size and legal composition of the foreign-born population using the American Community Survey (ACS). Without any assumptions on the distribution of citizenship status among nonrespondents, the size of the foreign-born population in the United States in 2019 was between 40.4 million and 59.4 million, and the size of the undocumented population was between 7.3 million and 23.3 million.
  • Engines of Change? Tribal Casinos, Economic Success, and Intergenerational Mobility. (Simeonova, Jones and Akee) Studies the impact of the opening of tribal casinos and unconditional cash transfers to tribal members (including those who reside away from the reservation) on the income, earnings and employment outcomes of parents and their children (in adulthood).
  • Air Pollution and Economic Opportunity in the United States. (Colmer, Voorheis and Williams) Examines the importance of neighborhood environmental quality in shaping economic opportunity and finds significant impacts on adult earnings, 
  • Who Benefits from Retirement Saving Incentives in the U.S.? Evidence on Racial Gaps in Retirement Wealth Accumulation. (Choukhmane, Colmenares, O'Dea, Rothbauupward mobility and income inequality.m and Schmidt) Finds that White workers contribute more of their salary to employer-sponsored retirement accounts, on average, than Black and Hispanic workers; income differences only explain one-third of the gap; and large disparities remain even after controlling for income, education, occupation, county of residence and employer fixed effects. Evidence suggests that Black and Hispanic households face tighter liquidity constraints and that the average Black (Hispanic) American will retire with around $350,000 ($280,000) less wealth than the average White American.
  • Why Are Black-Owned Businesses Smaller? (Kim, Brown, Earle, Lee and Wold) This paper employs data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs to explore why Black-owned firms are smaller on average and finds that major factors include Black-owned firms tend to be younger, have fewer owners and have worse financial access.
  • Local Labor Markets Left Behind? How Recessions Reshape Employment Dynamics Among Firms and Workers. (Stuart, Goetz and Hershbein) Investigates why local labor markets with greater employment declines during recessions experience highly persistent reductions in employment, employment-population ratios and earnings per worker by examining joint distributions of firm and worker fixed effects, changes in assortative matching and the evolution of the skill mix demanded by firms.
  • Unionization, Employer Opposition, and Establishment Closure. (Young and Wang) Finds that unionization decreases a business establishment’s employment and likelihood of survival and suggest firms avoid new unions by shifting production from unionized establishments to their other establishments.
  • From Studying Books to Shipping Them: The Effect of Warehouse Openings on Community College Enrollment. (Foote, Grosz and Orr) Examines the effect of warehouse and distribution center openings on enrollment in nearby community colleges using data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and, alternately, Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes and LEHD.
  • Occupational Sorting, Multidimensional Skill Mismatch, and the Child Penalty among Working Mothers. (Pepin and VanderBerg) This paper finds that gender gaps in labor market outcomes among working parents are due to (i) mothers sorting into lower-paying occupations in which employees tend to work fewer hours, using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY) 1979, and (ii) improvements in labor market outcomes among fathers in response to children, rather than worsening outcomes among mothers, using the NLSY97.
  • The Impact of Childcare Costs on Mothers' Labor Force Participation. (McBride and Sandler) Using a two stage least squares estimator with time- and state-level variation in child care licensing requirements across three different types of child care centers, this paper analyzes the causal impacts of child care costs on the employment and earnings of mothers, using data from the ACS, LEHD and Child Care Aware of America.
  • Care Jobs, Caregiving, and a Pandemic. (Heggeness) Explores the challenges associated with the double bind of paid care work and unpaid domestic care work during the pandemic with a focus on the employment, earnings, and time use of families at the lower end of the earnings distribution who held paid care jobs before the pandemic.
  • Economic Shocks, Inequality, and Unintended Fertility. (Jones and Pennington) Examines the impact of negative economic shocks on fertility and finds that high exposure to county-level unemployment during the Great Recession induced fertility decline among White women but increased fertility among Black women, suggesting that reduced access to reproductive healthcare increased unintended births for disadvantaged women.
  • Reproductive Policy Uncertainty and Defensive Investments in Contraception. (Pennington and Venator) Investigates the role that changes in reproductive healthcare policies have on women’s choice of contraceptive method and finds that the probability of switching increases after such policy shocks, suggesting that women make defensive investments in contraception.
  • Employment and Earnings Effects of California's Young Child Tax Credit.  (Unrath) Analyzes the labor supply responses of workers impacted by the young child tax credit introduced by California in 2019 using a regression discontinuity design that also differences out the responses among workers in other states and responses among the same set of workers in prior years.
  • Visual Inference and Graphical Representation in Regression Discontinuity Designs. (Korting, Lieberman, Matsudaira, Pei and Shen) Studies visual inference within the context of regression discontinuity designs and finds that bin widths and fit lines have the largest impacts on whether participants correctly perceive the presence or absence of a discontinuity and that visual inference achieves similar or lower type I error rates and complements econometric inference.

There will also be presentations 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 use these data to study a variety of topics to help the Census Bureau better measure the economy.

More information on all the papers to be presented at the AEA/ASSA meeting, including a preliminary program with abstracts, is available at <www.aeaweb.org/conference/2023/preliminary>.

More information on working papers by Census Bureau and FSRDC researchers is available at <www.census.gov/topics/research/library/working-papers.html>.


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