Senior Research Associate

Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent
Michael S. Teitelbaum. 2014. Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent . Princeton University Press.Abstract

Is the United States falling behind in the global race for scientific and engineering talent? Are U.S. employers facing shortages of the skilled workers that they need to compete in a globalized world? Such claims from some employers and educators have been widely embraced by mainstream media and political leaders, and have figured prominently in recent policy debates about education, federal expenditures, tax policy, and immigration. Falling Behind? offers careful examinations of the existing evidence and of its use by those involved in these debates.

These concerns are by no means a recent phenomenon. Examining historical precedent, Michael Teitelbaum highlights five episodes of alarm about "falling behind" that go back nearly seventy years to the end of World War II. In each of these episodes the political system responded by rapidly expanding the supply of scientists and engineers, but only a few years later political enthusiasm or economic demand waned. Booms turned to busts, leaving many of those who had been encouraged to pursue science and engineering careers facing disheartening career prospects. Their experiences deterred younger and equally talented students from following in their footsteps—thereby sowing the seeds of the next cycle of alarm, boom, and bust.

Falling Behind? examines these repeated cycles up to the present, shedding new light on the adequacy of the science and engineering workforce for the current and future needs of the United States.

It’s Where You Work: Increases in the Dispersion of Earnings across Establishments and Individuals in the United States.
Erling Barth, Alex Bryson, James C. Davis, and Richard B. Freeman. 2016. “It’s Where You Work: Increases in the Dispersion of Earnings across Establishments and Individuals in the United States.” Journal of Labor Economics, Special Issue dedicated to Edward Lazear, 34, S2, Pp. S67-S97. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper analyzes the role of establishments in the upward trend in dispersion of earnings that has become a central topic in economic analysis and policy debate. It decomposes changes in the variance of log earnings among individuals into the part due to changes in earnings among establishments and the part due to changes in earnings within establishments. The main finding is that much of the 1970s–2010s increase in earnings inequality results from increased dispersion of the earnings among the establishments where individuals work. Our results direct attention to the role of establishment-level pay setting and economic adjustments in earnings inequality.

“How Does Declining Unionism Affect the American Middle Class and Inter-generational Mobility?”
Richard B. Freeman, Eunice Han, Brendan Duke, and David Madland. 2016. ““How Does Declining Unionism Affect the American Middle Class and Inter-generational Mobility?”” Federal Reserve Bank, 2015 Community Development Research Conference Publication.Abstract
This paper examines unionism’s relationship to the size of the middle class and its
relationship to intergenerational mobility. Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) 1985
and 2011 files are used to examine the change in the share of workers in a middle-income
group (defined by persons having incomes within 50 percent of the median) and use a
shift-share decomposition to explore how the decline of unionism contributes to the
shrinking middle class. The files are also used to investigate the correlation between
parents’ union status and the incomes of their children. Additionally, federal income tax
data is used to examine the geographical correlation between union density and
intergenerational mobility. Findings include that union workers are disproportionately in
the middle-income group or above, and some reach middle-income status due to the
union wage premium; the offspring of union parents have higher incomes than the
offspring of otherwise comparable non-union parents, especially when the parents are
low-skilled; and offspring from communities with higher union density have higher
average incomes relative to their parents compared to offspring from communities with
lower union density. These findings show a strong, though not necessarily causal, link
between unions, the middle class, and intergenerational mobility. 
Jorn Boehnke

Jörn Boehnke

Senior Research Associate
Research on Retail Industry Behavior

Jörn Boehnke received his PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago.  He joined the Labor and Worklife Program as a postdoctoral fellow in 2017.  He is also a research fellow at the Center for Mathematical Sciences and Applications at Harvard University.... Read more about Jörn Boehnke

The Effects of Scientists and Engineers on Productivity and Earnings at the Establishment Where They Work
Erling Barth, James C. Davis, Richard B. Freeman, and Andrew J. Wang. 6/2017. “The Effects of Scientists and Engineers on Productivity and Earnings at the Establishment Where They Work.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper, No. 23484. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper uses linked establishment-firm-employee data to examine the relationship between the scientists and engineers proportion (SEP) of employment, and productivity and labor earnings. We show that: (1) most scientists and engineers in industry are employed in establishments producing goods or services, and do not perform research and development (R&D); (2) productivity is higher in manufacturing establishments with higher SEP, and increases with increases in SEP; (3) employee earnings are higher in manufacturing establishments with higher SEP, and increase substantially for employees who move to establishments with higher SEP, but only modestly for employees within an establishment when SEP increases in the establishment. The results suggest that the work of scientists and engineers in goods and services producing establishments is an important pathway for increasing productivity and earnings, separate and distinct from the work of scientists and engineers who perform R&D.
The Materiality of Human Capital to Corporate Financial Performance
Larry W. Beeferman and Aaron Bernstein. 4/2015. The Materiality of Human Capital to Corporate Financial Performance. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Much attention has been given by pension funds and other institutional investors to governance and in some measure environmental considerations in their investment-related decisions, spurred by either by normative concerns and/or their impact on financial performance. However, very little has been done in the latter terms with respect to what are often termed social considerations, which include work-related matters. This publication represents an effort to begin to remedy that problem.

More particularly, of the many published studies of human capital policies, the paper examines 92 that focus on the links to corporate financial performance. A large majority of the studies – covering a period of two decades and encompassing dozens of countries and industries - reported positive correlations. The paper summarizes key aspects of the research, reviews the methods and approaches they employ, and discusses strengths of and limitations to the findings. Overall, the paper suggests that human capital management can be material to a company’s financial performance. It recommends the kinds of information which investors should seek – among them, about the array of a company’s human capital policies, their relationship to one another, and their link to the company’s business strategy, and measures outcomes and financial impacts – and companies should provide.

Occasional Papers, No. 1: Can VEBAs alleviate retiree health care problems?
Aaron Bernstein. 4/2008. Occasional Papers, No. 1: Can VEBAs alleviate retiree health care problems?. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The 2007 negotiations between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Detroit automakers have focused national attention on a potentially innovative response to the long-term decline in retiree health insurance in the United States. The union agreed that an independent trust called a Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association (VEBA) will assume responsibility for UAW retiree medical care at the three automakers. Other unionized employers now are looking at these so-called defeasance VEBAs as a way to free themselves of burdensome health-care legacy costs. An analysis of the largest one, at GM, suggests that the concept is a second-best option for unions able to retain employer-paid retiree coverage. However, it may be a viable alternative for those unable to fend off unilateral elimination by an employer. Both private- and public-sector unions and employers can draw important lessons from the defeasance VEBA agreed to by the UAW and GM, which will deploy innovative tactics to distribute cost and risk amongst the company, workers, and retirees. More broadly, the new VEBAs illuminate a gaping hole in the federal tax code, which offers few incentives for employees to save for postemployment medical needs even as employers have shifted the responsibility on them to do so. A VEBA is a flexible vehicle that could provide the most tax-efficient savings method for workers whose employer doesn’t offer retiree coverage. However, changes in federal law likely would be required for the concept to become widespread.
Occasional Papers, No. 2: Incorporating Labor and Human Rights Risk Into Investment Decisions
Aaron Bernstein. 9/2008. Occasional Papers, No. 2: Incorporating Labor and Human Rights Risk Into Investment Decisions. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mainstream investors for the first time are beginning to assess labor and human rights factors as a way of increasing returns and lowering risk as part of a broader movement in the investment world to include corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) behavior into portfolio and lending decisions. However, the paper also describes why investment analysis of labor and human rights poses some of the most difficult challenges in the emerging ESG field.
Occasional Papers, No. 4: Quantifying Labor and Human Rights Portfolio Risk
Aaron Bernstein. 6/2009. Occasional Papers, No. 4: Quantifying Labor and Human Rights Portfolio Risk. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper explores how pension funds and other investors can obtain data on the long- term sustainability risks posed by the labor and human rights (LHR) activities of global corporations, with a specific focus on supply chains. It should be read as a companion piece to Bernstein's “Incorporating Labor and Human Rights Risk into Investment Decisions" (Occasional Paper, No. 2)
Occasional Papers, No. 5: Benchmarking Corporate Policies on Labor and Human Rights in Global Supply Chains
Aaron Bernstein and Christopher Greenwald. 11/2009. Occasional Papers, No. 5: Benchmarking Corporate Policies on Labor and Human Rights in Global Supply Chains. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Near majorities of large corporations have labor and human rights (LHR) policies covering their global supply chains, although far fewer have established follow-up monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. LHR supply-chain policies are also close to the norm among European companies, with the United States and Asia lagging behind. These findings are contained in the first study to benchmark LHR policies among the 2,500 companies found on the major stock market indices. The study was done by Pensions Project Senior Fellow Aaron Bernstein and Christopher Greenwald, Director of Data Content at the Swiss firm ASSET4, using ASSET4 data. 
Isabelle Ferreras

The Right to Strike

May 22, 2017

Boston Review, 
By ISABELLE FERRERAS, Senior Research Associate, LWP

“'In order to win workers’ rights,” Pope, Bruno, and Kellman argue, “organized labor should act like a rights movement. History tells us that rights movements—from abolition to women’s suffrage to civil rights—succeed when they claim a few key rights, exercise them at every opportunity, and place them front and center in every phase of movement activity.'

To me, two words are holding them back: “acting like.” There can be no “acting like” for organized labor, for in today’s world of global finance capitalism, labor is the new frontier in the historic struggle for rights—which is in fact a phase in the struggle for emancipation...."

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