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While average outcomes serve as important yardsticks for how the economy is doing, understanding heterogeneity—how outcomes vary across a population—is key to understanding both the whole picture and the implications of any given policy. Following our six-part look at heterogeneity in October 2019, we now turn our focus to heterogeneity in the labor market—the subject of four posts set for release tomorrow morning. Average labor market statistics mask a lot of underlying variability—disparities that factor into labor market dynamics. While we have written about labor market heterogeneity before, this series is an attempt to pull together in a cohesive way new insights on the labor market and highlight details that are not immediately obvious when we study aggregate labor market statistics.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, William Nober, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
The rising cost of a college education has become an important topic of discussion among both policymakers and practitioners. At least eleven states have recently introduced programs to make public two-year education tuition free, including New York, which is rolling out its Excelsior Scholarship to provide tuition-free four-year college education to low-income students across the SUNY and CUNY systems. Prior to these new initiatives, New York, had already instituted merit scholarship programs that subsidize the cost of college conditional on academic performance and in-state attendance. Given the rising cost of college and the increased prevalence of tuition-subsidy programs, it’s important for us to understand the effects of such programs on students, and whether these effects vary by income and race. While a rich body of work has studied the effects of merit scholarship programs on educational attainment, the same is not true for the effects on financial outcomes of students, such as debt and repayment. This blog post reports preliminary findings from ongoing work, which is one of the first research initiatives to understand such effects.
Economic analysis is often geared toward understanding the average effects of a given policy or program. Likewise, economic policies frequently target the average person or firm. While averages are undoubtedly useful reference points for researchers and policymakers, they don’t tell the whole story: it is vital to understand how the effects of economic trends and government policies vary across geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic boundaries. It is also important to assess the underlying causes of the various inequalities we observe around us, whether they are related to income, health, or any other set of indicators. Starting today, we are running a series of six blog posts (apart from this introductory post), each of which focuses on an interesting case of heterogeneity in the United States.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, Michelle Jiang, and William Nober
In an earlier post, we studied how educational attainment affects labor market outcomes and earnings inequality. In this post, we investigate whether these labor market effects were preserved across the last business cycle: Did students with certain types of educational attainment weather the recession better?
In our last post, we showed that the cost of college has increased sharply in recent years due to the rising opportunity cost of attending school and the steady rise in tuition. This steep increase in the cost of college has once again raised questions about whether college is “worth it.” In this post, we weigh the economic benefits of a bachelor’s degree against the costs to estimate the return to college, providing an update to our 2014 study. We find that the average rate of return for a bachelor’s degree has edged down slightly in recent years due to rising costs, but remains high at around 14 percent, easily surpassing the threshold for a good investment. Thus, while the rising cost of college appears to have eroded the value of a bachelor’s degree somewhat, college remains a good investment for most people.
Jaison R. Abel, Tony Davis, Richard Deitz, and Edison Reyes
Community colleges frequently work with local employers to help shape the training of students and incumbent workers. This type of engagement has become an increasingly important strategy for community colleges to help students acquire the right skills for available jobs, and also helps local employers find and retain workers with the training they need. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York conducted a survey of community colleges in New York State with the goal of documenting the amount and types of these kinds of activities taking place. Our report, Employer Engagement by Community Colleges in New York State, summarizes the findings of our survey.
The rate of employer-to-employer transitions and the average wage of full-time offers rose compared with a year ago, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s July 2018 SCE Labor Market Survey. Workers’ satisfaction with their promotion opportunities improved since July 2017, while their satisfaction with wage compensation retreated slightly. Regarding expectations, the average expected wage offer (conditional on receiving one) and the reservation wage—the lowest wage at which respondents would be willing to accept a new job—both increased. The expected likelihood of moving into unemployment over the next four months showed a small uptick, which was most pronounced for female respondents.
Amid dialogue about the soaring student loan burden, questions arise about how educational characteristics (school type, selectivity, and major) affect disparities in post-college labor market outcomes. In this post, we specifically explore the impact of such school and major choices on employment, earnings, and upward economic mobility. Insight into determinants of economic disparity is key for understanding long-term consumption and inequality patterns. In addition, this gives us a window into factors that could be used to ameliorate income inequality and promote economic mobility.
The state of the New York City subway system has worsened considerably over the past few years. As a consequence of rising ridership and decaying infrastructure, the network is plagued by delays and frequently fails to deliver New Yorkers to their destinations on time. While these delays are a headache for anyone who depends on the subway to get around, they do not affect all riders in the same way. In this post, we explain why subway delays disproportionately affect low-income New Yorkers. We show that wealthier commuters who rely on the subway are less likely to experience extensive issues on their commutes.
Maya Bidanda, Rajashri Chakrabarti, Sean Hundtofte, and Maxim L. Pinkovskiy
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is arguably the biggest policy intervention in health insurance in the United States since the passage of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965. The Act was signed into law in March 2010, and by 2016 approximately 20 to 24 million additional Americans were covered with health insurance. Such an extension of insurance coverage could affect not only medical bills, but also educational, employment, and broader financial outcomes. In this post, we take an initial look at the relationship between the ACA and higher education financing choices and outcomes. We find evidence that expansions in healthcare coverage may influence both the prevalence of student loans and loan repayment behavior. Specifically, our results suggest that individuals covered by ACA-related expansions are taking out slightly more loans and taking a longer time to start repayment.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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