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Open Access Publications from the University of California

About

The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment promotes better understanding of the conditions, policies, and institutions that affect the well-being of workers and their families and communities. We inform public debate with hard evidence about inequality, the economy, and the nature of work.

Steven Raphael
Director

Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
University of California, Berkeley
2521 Channing Way
Berkeley, CA 94720-5555
http://irle.berkeley.edu/
irle@berkeley.edu


Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

There are 879 publications in this collection, published between 1987 and 2022.
Policy Briefs (25)

Framing the Case for Supporting Immigrants

To build support for a cause, activists frame issues in ways they think will resonate with the public. UC Berkeley researchers find that one of the primary tactics for activists—using a civil rights framework to frame an issue—can actually decrease public support. Particularly in the case of immigrant rights and legalization, activists should reevaluate their strategies in order to successfully persuade the public to adopt change.

The Limits of Ban-the-Box Legislation

Nationwide, 36 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as “Ban the Box” (BtB) (NELP 2020). These policies require employers to remove conviction and arrest history questions from job applications and delay background checks until after a conditional offer has been made.  The policy is designed to encourage employers to consider a job candidate’s qualifications first – without the stigma of a criminal record – in the hopes of reducing barriers to employment that justice-involved individuals face.

We imagine two ways that BtB might work. The first is by changing employers’ hiring practices. Existing research on the former indicates the policy does increase callback and hiring rates for people with criminal records (Agan and Starr 2016; Atkinson and Lockwood 2014; Berracasa et al. 2016; Shoag and Veuger 2016), but effects appear highly contingent on the race of the job seeker and on the employment sector. The second way that BtB might reduce barriers to employment is by altering whether and how individuals with criminal records search for work. No research to date, however, has examined whether individuals with criminal records know about BtB, their perception of how efficacious it is, and what impacts the policy’s implementation has had on justice-involved individuals’ job search patterns.

To address the latter shortcoming, we surveyed 351 probationers in the San Francisco Bay Area and conducted in-depth interviews with a subset of 43. We learned that three major barriers continue to limit individuals’ ability to benefit from the policy. First, few of our survey respondents knew about BtB at all, much less that it had been implemented. Second, whether they knew about BtB or not, the majority perceived that they had recently been discriminated against because they had criminal records, with a significant minority to a majority reporting discrimination at each stage of the hiring process. Third, our Black respondents also perceived that employers continue to discriminate against Black applicants, making finding and keeping work extremely difficult.

In this brief, we elaborate on these three points in the hopes that our findings will inform the development not only of fair chance policies aimed at increasing employment opportunities for justice-involved individuals, but also of a broader set of policies on employment and re-entry.

The Great Recession reduced fertility among unmarried and teen women

The Great Recession has ruined the finances of millions of families and has had long-lasting impacts on employment. But less is known about its social consequences, about how it affected the intimate lives of the most disadvantaged – and in particular how it affected their fertility. Prior research has found that fertility decisions are often disconnected from economic concerns. In a new paper, I find the opposite: fertility falls in response to severe economic shocks among unmarried and teen women.1 I show that during the Great Recession, unmarried women increased their use of contraceptives and made use of more effective contraceptive methods. My results suggest that the Great Recession decreased fertility with consequences for the society as a whole.

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Working Paper Series (391)

Racial Inequality and Minimum Wages in Frictional Labor Markets

We examine how the racial patchwork of federal and state minimum wage changes between 1990 and 2019 has affected racial wage gaps, with specific attention to effects on labor market frictions. Black workers on average are less likely to live in high-wage states that have raised their wage floors. The effect of state minimum wages on the national racial wage gap is thus not self-evident.

Using five different causal specifications, including the “bunching” estimator of Cengiz et al. (2019), and data from the CPS and the QWI, we find that minimum wage changes since 1990 did reduce the 2019 racial wage gaps, by 12 percent among all workers and 60 percent among less-educated workers. The reductions are greater among black women and among black prime age workers. The gains for black workers are concentrated well above the new minimum wage, beyond the usual spillover estimates. Earnings of all race/ethnic/gender groups grew, with larger effects among black workers. We do not find disemployment effects for any group.

Surprisingly, racial differences in initial wages do not explain the reduction in the racial wage gap. Rather, minimum wages expand job opportunities for black workers more than for white workers. We present a model in which minimum wages assist the job search of workers who do not own automobiles and who live farther from jobs. Our causal results using the ACS show that minimum wages increase commuting via automobile among black workers, supporting our model. Minimum wages also reduce racial gaps in separations and hires, further suggesting the policies especially enhance job opportunities for black workers.

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Labor Contracts Repository (Closed, contract dates:1987-2004) (135)
132 more worksshow all
Spotlight on Immigration: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Immigrants and Their Children (6)

The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Immigration

Immigration is a hotly contested policy issue in the United States. Diametrically opposed advocacy groups exchange counterclaims on immigration’s blessings or banes, sometimes with little pretext of objectivity. However, recent decades have also seen a growing body of nonpartisan scholarly analysis of immigration’s fiscal and economic impact in the US. An exploration of such study finds that the preponderance of evidence points to positive net fiscal and economic impacts—albeit modest ones—and negligible effects on native wages and employment rates. Immigration may have other economic impacts—positive and/or negative—not yet captured or measured. More research is needed to further our understanding of immigration’s fiscal and economic effects.

Varieties of Inequality: Allocation, Distribution, and the Wage Disadvantages of Immigrant Workers

In this paper, I ask how immigrant/native-born wage gaps differ in two institutionally distinct receiving societies in Western Europe: Sweden, with a comparatively equal wage structure, and the United Kingdom, with a comparatively unequal wage structure. Using large, nationally representative data sets and focusing on 30 immigrant groups that reside in both countries, I document two distinct kinds of inequality between immigrant and native-born workers. In terms of wage percentiles, immigrants fare unambiguously better in the UK, net of human capital, demographic characteristics, and sending country. That is, immigrants achieve higher relative positions in the British labor market than in the Swedish labor market. But immigrant/nativeborn gaps in terms of real wages are at least as large in the UK as in Sweden, and for some groups larger, because overall earnings inequality is so high in the UK. These findings suggest that policies to improve immigrant pay must consider immigrant-specific barriers in the labor market and the detrimental effects of earnings inequality for immigrant workers.

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Other Works (5)

Providing Medical Services to Low-Wage Workers with Job Injuries: Model Tools and Instructions for Community Health Centers in California 

Produced by the Labor Occupational Health Program in collaboration with the Watsonville Law Center, this booklet supports community health centers (CHCs), which serve as safety net providers, in creating financially sustainable programs to treat patients with work-related injuries and illnesses.

This booklet will help CHCs meet important mandates for funding under the Affordable Care Act by increasing their capacity to provide patient-centered comprehensive services. A successful workers’ compensation program will expand CHCs’ services in their local communities, ensure injured or ill workers receive treatment and other benefits through workers’ compensation, and encourage many more in the community to obtain both occupational and non-occupational health care services from CHCs.

This report was published by the Work & Health Initiative (WHI). WHI was established to improve the health and wellbeing of California workers and their families and was sponsored by the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) in northern California. COEH, which is based at the Berkeley, San Francisco, and Davis campuses of the University of California, conducts research, multi-disciplinary graduate-level training, professional continuing education, and community service, including training workshops, conferences, educational materials, clinical services, and assistance with specific problems. The Work & Health Initiative worked in close collaboration with the Labor Occupational Health Program, a community outreach program of COEH.

For Workers' Compensation Clients: Facts About Other Benefits in California

Written for injured workers seeking advice from legal aid offices, this factsheet discusses the interplay between workers’ compensation benefits and state disability insurance, state unemployment insurance, U.S. Social Security benefits, and Medicare and Medi-Cal benefits.

This report was published by the Work & Health Initiative (WHI). WHI was established to improve the health and wellbeing of California workers and their families and was sponsored by the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) in northern California. COEH, which is based at the Berkeley, San Francisco, and Davis campuses of the University of California, conducts research, multi-disciplinary graduate-level training, professional continuing education, and community service, including training workshops, conferences, educational materials, clinical services, and assistance with specific problems. The Work & Health Initiative worked in close collaboration with the Labor Occupational Health Program, a community outreach program of COEH.

Legal Services Available to Injured Workers in California

This qualitative social research project described and documented some of the gaps in legal services available to injured workers. Data were collected through interviews with persons throughout California representing labor organizations, legal aid organizations, and a UC law school clinical program.

This report was published by the Work & Health Initiative (WHI). WHI was established to improve the health and wellbeing of California workers and their families and was sponsored by the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) in northern California. COEH, which is based at the Berkeley, San Francisco, and Davis campuses of the University of California, conducts research, multi-disciplinary graduate-level training, professional continuing education, and community service, including training workshops, conferences, educational materials, clinical services, and assistance with specific problems. The Work & Health Initiative worked in close collaboration with the Labor Occupational Health Program, a community outreach program of COEH.

2 more worksshow all