Spring 2009 Colloquia

Monday, February 2, 2009 - 4-6pm

Peter Berck

Donald Vial Center Seminar: Green House Gas Policies and California Employment

Peter Berck, Professor, Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley

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Monday, February 9, 2009 - 12-1pm

Laura Giuliano

Minimum Wage Effects on Employment, Substitution, and the Quality of the Teenage Labor Supply: Evidence from personnel data

Laura Giuliano, Professor, Haas School of Business

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Using personnel data from a large U.S. retail firm with more than 700 stores nationwide, this study examines how the 1996 federal minimum wage increase affected both the level of employment at these stores and the fraction of teenagers employed. Geographic variation in pre-legislative wages created variation in the legislation’s impact on both the average wage and the relative wage of teenagers. The basic analysis relates legislation-induced wage increases to subsequent changes in employment patterns. The results suggest, first, that an increase in the average wage had a negative but statistically insignificant impact on overall employment. Second, an increase in the relative wage of teenagers led to a significant increase in the relative employment of teenagers. These results appear inconsistent with the traditional view that minimum wages lead employers to reduce employment, and to substitute relatively high-skilled, high-wage labor for the labor of the less-skilled workers whose relative wages go up. However, additional analysis suggests that they are consistent with a model (Drazen, 1986) that incorporates imperfect information about the quality of individual teenage applicants into the traditional, competitive framework. Specifically, the evidence suggests that teenagers who lived in high-income ZIP codes were relatively productive, and that they increased their labor supply when the minimum wage forced stores to pay teenagers more like adults. In these stores, the legislation may have increased the demand for teenage labor by raising the average quality of the teenage applicant pool. In contrast, where the legislation increased the wages of both teenagers and adults without compressing the wage distribution, the result was a significant decline in employment, as predicted by the conventional model.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009 - 12-1pm

Francesco Devicienti

Rent-sharing, hold-up and wages. Evidence from Italy.

Francesco Devicienti, Visiting Scholar, Professor, University of Torino, Italy

Do employers share rents with their employees? Standard bargaining models predict a positive relation between firm profits and wages, which may arise in the presence of union bargaining power. While the empirical evidence is generally consistent with significant rent-sharing in a number of countries, many biases have plagued the existing studies.

At the same time, bargaining models predict that a firm's incentive to accumulate fixed capital is reduced in the presence of workers' bargaining power and incomplete contracts. In fact, if workers can renegotiate their wages after a large irreversible investment is made, a hold-up problem may emerge, resulting in a firm's suboptimal capital accumulation. However, detecting the presence of this hold-up problem has been particularly difficult, mostly because of data requirements.

In this projects we use a rich matched employer-employee dataset from Italy, which contains detailed information on a firm's balance sheets and on the totality of its workforce. The longitudinal nature of the data allows us to control for observed and unobserved determinants of individual wages and to provide further empirical evidence on both the existence of rent-sharing and the presence of a hold-up in firm investment decisions.

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Monday, March 2, 2009 - 12-1pm

Will Dow

Pay-or-play employer health insurance mandates: Early evidence from San Francisco.

Will Dow, Professor, Health Economics, University of California, Berkeley (with Carrie Hoverman and Arin Dube).

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Monday, March 9, 2009 - 12-1pm

Richard Walker

A New New Deal

Richard Walker, Professor, Geography, University of California, Berkeley (with Gray Brechin)

What we (and the Obama Administration) can learn from FDR's New Deal and its many beneficial effects.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009 - 4-5pm (Note: new date!)

Holmes Hummel

Donald Vial Center Seminar: What is at stake for labor interests in climate policy design – and what can they win at the table?

Holmes Hummel, Energy Resources Group, visiting specialist on Climate and Energy Policy Design

With 85% of the U.S. energy mix coming from fossil fuels, the Obama Administration's goal of reaching greenhouse gas emissions of 80% below 1990 by 2050 means we are embarking upon a sweeping transformation of the energy sector. California's EPA and Congress are both negotiating rules for a cap-and-trade policy that would establish a price for greenhouse gas pollution, causing unions in energy-intensive industries to raise concerns that a new cost of production might motivate capital flight to other countries, "leaking" emissions along with jobs. Unions representing service workers are concerned about regressive effect of a carbon price on working class households. Climate policy also holds the potential to rapidly creation of millions of new "green jobs" - but there's no guarantee that new energy businesses will welcome union participation. Dr. Hummel will address all three of these issues by clarifying the major concerns, describing the policy options, and making the case for provisions that could best serve the interests of working households in America.

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Monday, March 16, 2009 - 12-1pm

Paige Skiba

Do Payday Loans Cause Bankruptcy?

Paige Skiba, Vanderbilt University Law School (with Jeremy Tobacman).

An estimated ten million American households borrow on payday loans each year. Despite the prevalence of these loans, little is known about the effects of access to this form of short-term, high-cost credit. We match individual-level administrative records on payday borrowing to public records on bankruptcy, and we exploit a regression discontinuity to estimate the causal impact of access to payday loans on bankruptcy filings. Though payday loans are small (the typical amount is $300), we find that loan approval for first-time applicants increases the two-year bankruptcy filing rate by 2.48 percentage points. There appear to be two components driving this large effect. First, consumers are already financially stressed when they begin borrowing on payday loans. Second, approved applicants borrow repeatedly on payday loans and pawn loans, which carry very high interest rates. For the subsample that identifies our estimates, the cumulative interest burden from payday and pawn loans amounts to roughly 10 percent of the total liquid debt interest burden at the time of bankruptcy filing.

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Monday, March 30, 2009 - 12-1pm

Jacob Hacker

Public Plan Choice: How to Give Working-Age Americans the Option of a New Public Health Insurance Plan

Jacob Hacker, Professor, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

Jacob S. Hacker is Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley, as well as Co-Director of the Center for Health, Economic, and Family Security at Berkeley Law. He is also a Fellow at the New America Foundation. Widely published in both scholarly journal and popular outlets, his most recent book is The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream (revised and expanded edition, 2008). He is the author of a 2007 proposal for universal health care, "Health Care for America," that has shaped national debate, and editor of "Health At Risk: America’s Ailing Health System – and How to Heal It" (2008). He also oversees a Social Science Research Council project on the "privatization of risk" and, with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, is developing a new index of economic security and fielding a new survey on public perceptions of economic security. Currently, he is completing a book with Paul Pierson on inequality and American politics.

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Monday, March 30, 2009 - 12-1pm

John Logan

The Union Avoidance Industry and the Right to Organize in Postwar America

John Logan, Research Specialist, Center for Labor Research and Education, University of California, Berkeley

This talk has been cancelled until further notice.


Monday, April 6, 2009 - 12-1pm

High Unemployment Yet Few Small Firms: The Contribution of Centralized Bargaining in South Africa

Jeremy Magruder, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Berkeley

South Africa has very high unemployment, yet few adults work in small firms or as entrepreneurs. One potential explanation is that unions can extend arbitration decisions to non-unionized firms, raising wage rates. These agreements are enforced in a spatially discontinuous way;I identify the employment effects of these bargaining councils through spatial fixed effects. This approach represents a methodological improvement over sample restrictions used in other spatial discontinuity studies. Bargaining councils are found to decrease employment by 6-11%, with larger decreases among small firms. These effects are not explained by resettlement to uncovered areas, and they resemble shortage more than search.

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Friday, April 10, 2009 - 12-1pm

David Levine

Quality Management and Job Quality: How the ISO 9001 Standard for Quality Management Systems Affects Employees and Employers

David Levine, Professor, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley (with Michael Toffel)

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Monday, April 13, 2009 - 12-1pm

Making Government Work for Families: The Federal Government's Role as Employer, Contractor, and Grantmaker in Supporting Family-Friendly Workplace Policies

Ann O'Leary, Executive Director, Center on Health, Economic & Family Security, UC Berkeley School of Law
Mary Ann Mason, Professor and Co-Director, Center, Economics & Family Security at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

Paper co-written with Angela Clements

A major factor in the growing economic insecurity of American families is the lack of family-friendly policies in the workplace. Without paid parental leave, flexibility in hours worked, or job security in the event of a family or medical related leave, workers are at risk of losing their jobs, which in turn leads to huge shifts in income for families. While affecting the economic security of families as a whole, this problem has primarily been borne by working women. Today, nearly seventy percent of mothers work outside the home and a majority of women act as primary caregivers both for children and elderly relatives. Increasingly, women are contributing substantially to the economic security of the family. In the current recession, approximately 82 percent of the jobs lost have been lost by men, leaving women in the workplace to provide for the family.

The purpose of this report is to explore how the federal government could use existing and new tools to incentivize federal contractors and grantees to create flexible workplaces that allow employees to meet their obligations to their families without fear of job loss. In the past eight years, the federal government dramatically increased its financial investment in contracting, and is continuing to increase its investment in grants, especially through the recent economic stimulus package approved by Congress. As a result, there has been a surge in the number of employees in the private sector who are directly supported by federal contracts and grants – as many as 10 million by some estimates. Yet this increased investment was not accompanied by an increase in the oversight of contractors or any increase in funds or tools to enforce antidiscrimination laws, regulations and executive orders, including prohibitions against pregnancy and caregiving discrimination, by which contractors and grantees must abide. Little attention has been paid to the inefficiencies and inequities associated with the lack of policies that support women and their families in businesses and institutions supported by federal contracts and grants.

We first explore the ways in which the federal government, particularly through its executive functions, could encourage federal contractors to improve workplace policies and practices to meet the needs of parents and caregivers. The prohibition against sex discrimination by federal contractors and the requirement of affirmative action provides the federal government with existing tools to encourage and promote family-friendly flexible workplace policies. We examine the enforcement tools the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs should use to evaluate whether federal contractors with inflexible schedules or no-leave policies are discriminating on the basis of sex in violation of Executive Order 11246. This section also examines the power the federal government has to issue a new executive order requiring contractors to report on the availability of certain family-friendly workplace policies or, further, to require such practices as a condition of receiving a federal contract.

Finally, we explore how the federal government can use its grantmaking power, particularly its grants to educational institutions, to increase flexible, family-friendly policies and practices. One such tool is Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination by educational institutions that are recipients of federal grants. We explore ways that federal grantmaking agencies, charged with enforcing Title IX, can ensure that Title IX protects against pregnancy and caregiving discrimination among educational institutions receiving federal grants. In particular, this report addresses how Title IX could be used to help prevent the steady loss of women academics due to lack of family leave and job projection policies for families at the educational institutions where they conduct research.

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Monday, April 20, 2009 - 4-5pm

Malo Hutson

Donald Vial Center Seminar: Examining Employment Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Urban Residents

Malo Hutson, Professor, Department of City & Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley

The national unemployment rate has continued to rise during the current economic crisis. In many urban communities the unemployment rate is significantly higher than the national average, especially for lower-skilled, economically disadvantaged residents. This talk will examine the challenges and opportunities that exist for connecting lower-skilled urban residents to employment opportunities.

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Monday, April 27, 2009 - 12-1pm

Peter Evans

Bureaucracies, Networks and Campaigns: Amalgamating a Global Labor Movement

Peter Evans, Professor, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

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Monday, May 4, 2009 - 12-1pm

American Exceptionalism and the Quality of Life in the United States

Jerome Karabel, Professor, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

The United States has long been considered an "exceptional" nation with a social and economic order that distinguishes it from other economically advanced countries. In recent years, this idea has come under attack, with many historians and social scientists arguing that every country is unique and that the United States fits neatly among the ranks of other wealthy democratic countries. Drawing on recent evidence in a variety of domains, the presentation will argue that the United States remains an "outlier" -- sometimes an extreme "outlier" -- among its peer countries. It will conclude with a brief discussion of the implications of American exceptionalism for the place of the United States in the international order.

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Monday, May 18, 2009 - 12-1pm

Lena Nekby

Measuring Negative Priors Against Arabic Named Job Applicants: A Field Experiment

Lena Nekby, Department of Economics, Stockholm University and Stockholm Linnaeus Center for Integration Studies (SULCIS)
Prof. Nekby's Website

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We examine how much more work experience is needed to eliminate call-back gaps between groups. To assess the gap between job candidates with Swedish and Arabic names, employers are first sent CVs of equal merits. Arabic-named CVs are then enhanced with more work experience to measure the strength of negative employer priors. The call-back gap disappears for female applicants with enhanced CVs but remains strong and significant for male applicants despite enhanced CVs. Negative priors against male job applicants with Arabic names are therefore substantial while priors against Arabic-Named female applicants are small enough to be compensated with more labor market experience.

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All events are located at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA.

TO ATTEND AN EVENT, PLEASE R.S.V.P. Myra Armstrong, zulu2@berkeley.edu