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Open Access Publications from the University of California

IRLE’s Policy Brief series is aimed at translating the academic research of our faculty affiliates and campus researchers to a policy audience. We distribute briefs to policymakers and journalists.

For questions about the series, or to submit your research for consideration, please contact Series Editor Sara Hinkley (hinkley@berkeley.edu).



Cover page of The Post-Recession Labor Market: An Incomplete Recovery

The Post-Recession Labor Market: An Incomplete Recovery

(2019)

Recovery from the Great Recession has been slow and extremely prolonged. It was tempting to conclude, at various points, that we had recovered as much as we were going to. Even after the official unemployment rate receded, other indicators of recovery remained much more mixed—the share of people employed remained well below pre-recession levels; wages were stagnant; and inequality continued to grow. Absent clear evidence of a full recovery, including healthy wage growth, policy efforts should emphasize ensuring that the benefits of growth are broadly shared.

Cover page of The Great Recession, Families, and the Safety Net

The Great Recession, Families, and the Safety Net

(2018)

The Great Recession caused significant hardship for many U.S. families. Safety net programs—some of which were expanded during the recession and its recovery—mitigated some of the worst effects, but were not available to all households and were insufficient to compensate for the depth of the downturn. What can policymakers learn from the adequacy of the response?

Cover page of What Really Caused the Great Recession?

What Really Caused the Great Recession?

(2018)

The Great Recession devastated local labor markets and the national economy. Ten years later, Berkeley researchers are finding many of the same red flags blamed for the crisis: banks making subprime loans and trading risky securities. Congress just voted to scale back many Dodd-Frank provisions. Does another recession lie around the corner?

Cover page of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Update: California Expansion, Federal Inaction

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Update: California Expansion, Federal Inaction

(2018)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is now the primary anti-poverty program in the U.S., but it has not kept up with wage stagnation. Berkeley faculty recently proposed an increase in the federal EITC, California has adopted an expansion of its own state EITC, and Congress passed a tax bill that fails to help EITC recipients.

Cover page of State Policy Strategies for Narrowing the Gender Wage Gap

State Policy Strategies for Narrowing the Gender Wage Gap

(2018)

#MeToo and #TimesUp protests about the treatment of women in the workplace have brought renewed attention to gender pay equity. This brief looks at three legislative solutions that aim to close the gap by increasing pay transparency and pushing employers to set salaries to the position, not the history of the person doing the job.

Cover page of State Policy Strategies for Narrowing the Gender Wage Gap

State Policy Strategies for Narrowing the Gender Wage Gap

(2018)

#MeToo and #TimesUp protests about the treatment of women in the workplace have brought renewed attention to gender pay equity. This brief looks at three legislative solutions that aim to close the gap by increasing pay transparency and pushing employers to set salaries to the position, not the history of the person doing the job.

Cover page of Working in the service sector in Connecticut

Working in the service sector in Connecticut

(2018)

Nearly 250,000 workers are employed in the retail and food service sector in the state of Connecticut. Nationally, jobs in the service sector are characterized by low pay and few fringe benefits, and workers employed in the service sector have little control over the days and times that they will work. In addition, many service sector employers across the country rely on just-in-time and on-call scheduling practices designed to minimize labor costs by closely aligning staffing with consumer demand. These practices can introduce a great deal of instability into the lives of workers and their families.

Cover page of Working in the Service Sector in Philadelphia

Working in the Service Sector in Philadelphia

(2018)

Nearly 100,000 workers are employed in the retail and food service sector in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Nationally, jobs in the service sector are characterized by low pay and few fringe benefits, and workers employed in the service sector have little control over the days and times that they will work. In addition, many service sector employers across the country rely on just-in-time and on-call scheduling practices designed to minimize labor costs by closely aligning staffing with consumer demand. These practices can introduce a great deal of instability into the lives of workers and their families.

Cover page of The Great Recession reduced fertility among unmarried and teen women

The Great Recession reduced fertility among unmarried and teen women

(2017)

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.

Cover page of Is Uncle Sam Inducing the Elderly to Retire?

Is Uncle Sam Inducing the Elderly to Retire?

(2017)

Social Security was originally created to provide a basic floor for retirees’ living standards. However, many Americans – and in particular an increasing number of Baby Boomers – rely on Social Security as their major source of retirement income. There is a gap between what Social Security can provide at current funding levels, and what Americans expect it to provide. Many Baby Boomers appear at risk of suffering a major decline in their living standard in retirement. Since the government is not likely to expand Social Security in the short term, Baby Boomers should not be discouraged from increasing their lifetime earnings by working harder and longer. In a recent paper, 1 my colleagues and I measure the work disincentives confronted by people aged 50-79, based on an evaluation of the entire array of explicit federal and state taxes and implicit taxes arising from the loss of benefits as one earns more. We find that these work disincentives are much higher than suggested by previous research. Working longer can raise older workers’ living standards, but those additional earnings are effectively taxed at a high rate (typically between 40-60%). Reducing these work disincentives could help increase the lifetime earnings of retirees and thereby reduce poverty rates among the elderly.