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I study labor markets, public programs, and economic inequality in the U.S. My research spans peer-reviewed academic research in (or intended to be in) journals, RAND research reports commissioned by clients, and essays. Here I've organized it by theme: labor market shocks and how workers recover from them, trends in earnings and inequality, and the workforce development system that grows and trains our labor force.

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Of course, research does not always work out as planned, and some projects have to be retired without ever getting their day in the sun. Jump to:






Unemployment,  UI, Divorce, Retirement, CPS

One of the greatest challenges a worker faces is weathering shocks, or disruptions to work. I study how workers recover from these shocks. Much of my research focuses on how families make ends meets during unemployment spells. I also look at more personal shocks----such as a partner becoming disabled, a partner retiring, or getting divorced----and how they affect labor supply and earnings. Critically, how workers fare in the face of shocks is often a comment on public programs designed to mitigate their impact.


"Parents of an Unemployed Child: Consumption, Income, and Savings Effects."

with Jeffrey B. Wenger.

IZA Journal of Labor Economics, 2019, 8(1).

The risk of labor market, health, and asset-value shocks comprise profound retirement savings challenges for older workers. Parents, however, may experience added risk if their children experience adverse labor market shocks. Prior research has shown that parents support their children financially through an unemployment spell. In this paper, we also provide evidence of financial support from parents and investigate if this financial support is accompanied by adjustments to parental consumption, income, or savings behavior.

Link to Article

"Who Helps the Unemployed? Workers' Receipt of Private and Public Cash Transfers."

IZA Journal of Labor Economics, 2020, 9(1).

I use longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to measure the extent to which an unemployment spell increases the likelihood that a worker receives a cash transfer from family. I find that unemployment increases the probability a worker receives financial assistance from their family, inclusive of all demographic subgroups, that family cash transfer receipt is growing over time, and is weakly related to UI availability.

Link to Article

"CPS Nonresponse During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Explanations, Extent, and Effects."

with Jason Ward.

Labour Economics, 2021, 72(10).

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected data collection for the nation’s primary source of household-level labor force data, the Current Population Survey (CPS). In the first four months of the pandemic period (March-June 2020) the average month-over-month nonresponse rate increased by 62 percent, while the size of newly entering cohorts declined by 37 percent relative to the prior 18 months. We find some evidence that these changes may affect the accuracy of subgroup unemployment estimates.

Link to Article

"Pathways to Retirement Among Dual Earning Couples."

with Kristine Brown and Katherine Carman.

Journal of Economics of Ageing, 2022, 22(6).

Research indicates significant roles for gradual transitions to full retirement and for coordination between spouses in the typical retirement experience. However, there is little research exploring the potentially important interactions between the two. We analyze 12 waves of the Health and Retirement Study to develop detailed descriptions of couples’ realized joint retirement trajectories. A key finding of our research is the vast variation in retirement sequences followed by couples; our sample includes over 2,600 couples and over 1,400 unique retirement trajectories.

Link to Paper

"Worker Mobility in Practice: Is Quitting a Right,or a Luxury?"

Journal of Law and Political Economy, 2022, 3(1).

Worker mobility—the ability to find and take another job—is at the core of worker power, and, conversely, worker immobility is at the core of employer power. This paper presents evidence of barriers to worker mobility in terms of labor market constraints (can a worker find another job?) and financial constraints (can a worker afford to transition to another job?). The theoretical context of these findings is dynamic monopsony: the harder it is for a worker to leave, the more power an employer has over that worker’s wages.

Link to Paper



Funded Work:


"Health and Outcomes of Divorced Individuals: The Role of Resources," NIA Grant R03AG064508-01A1.

Works in Progress:

"Multiprogram Participation and the Dynamics of Poverty Spells," with Daniel Schwam.

"How Does Unsecured Credit Usage Change During a Crunch?" with J. Michael Collins and Max Schmeiser.








Labor, Public Policy


Income, Race, Gender,  Multiple job holding, Minimum Wage, poverty

The majority of income for the majority of U.S. households comes from their earnings. I study both the overall distribution of earnings and measures of inequality, as well as case studies in the earnings disparities, earnings shortfalls, income strategies, and labor market outcomes of specific groups. I've looked at low-income workers who hold multiple jobs as well as high-income workers with STEM degrees.



"Moonlighting to the Side Hustle: The Effect of Working an Extra Job on Household Poverty for Households with Less Formal Education."

with Jennifer L. Scott and Alexandra Stanczyk

Families in Society, 2020. 101(3), 324–33.

Although working more than one job to avoid economic hardship is not a new strategy for U.S. workers, official estimates suggest it is infrequent. These may not, however, include new conceptualizations of work like “side hustles.” To understand who works multiple jobs and its effect on economic well-being, we expanded the definition and used the Survey of Income and Program Participation to estimate (a) prevalence and (b) the effect of secondary earnings on household poverty. We found that 18.2% of households held multiple jobs and that secondary earnings reduced household poverty, and more effectively for consistent multiple jobholders. Integrating this understanding into economic well-being practice and policy interventions that expand employee benefits could better support multiple jobholding as a poverty reduction strategy.

Link to Article

"Cash Remains King."

Essay with Bradley Hardy in

The Future of Building Wealth: Brief Essays on the Best Ideas to Build Wealth—for Everyone 2021.

This essay succinctly maps out the sources of cash for families, presents trends over time in cash, and discusses evidence that many families are cash poor. It was published in a volume of how to increase wealth and decrease wealth disparities in the U.S.

Link to Book

Link to Essay

"Leak or Link? The Overrepresentation of Women in Non-tenure track Academic Positions in STEM."

with Stephanie Renanne (lead), Hannah Acheson-Field, Grace Gahlon, and Melanie Zaber.

PLOS One, 2022. 17 (6).

The paucity of tenured female faculty in the STEM fields is often attributed to women's greater propensity to "leak" from the tenure pipeline at some stage, either in not choosing an academic career or in not remaining through the tenure process. We discuss this concept of leakage as we document the over-representation of women in non-tenure track academic positions.

Link to Paper

"Accounting for Black-White Wealth Differences: A Stylized Model of Wealth Accumulation."

RAND Corporation Research Report, RR-A2159-1.

Research has consistently found that income and wealth are not remade every generation, but rather that they are closely linked to past generations. This report describes both broad determinants of wealth differences that apply to all individuals, regardless of race, and those factors, in particular, that contribute to Black-white wealth differences. Although far from exhaustive, the model conveys not only the large gaps in Black and white wealth but also illustrates how these gaps could worsen over time.

Link to Paper

Working Papers:

"Towards a Performance Measure of Income Inequality: Trends in Income, 1975-2018."

with Carter Price.

Under Review.

This work introduces two novel methods in measuring income inequality. The first uses publicly available tax summary data to improve estimates of top-coded income in the Current Population Survey. The second is a time-period agnostic and income-level agnostic measure of inequality that relates income growth to economic growth. This new metric, the Growth Share Measure, can be applied over long stretches of time, applied to subgroups of interest, and easily calculated. We apply both methods to the time period 1975-2018 to show the trends in income inequality relative to per capita gross domestic product. We find that only incomes at the top 1 percent paced economic growth over this period. We discuss how our inequality measure could be applied to public program evaluation in a manner similar to the supplemental poverty rates.

Link to Paper

Link to Earlier Version (RAND WP)

"What is a Traditional Scientist Career? Evidence from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients."

(lead) with Hannah Acheson-Field, Grace Gahlon, Stephanie Rennane,and Melanie Zaber.

Under Review.

This paper investigates to what extent there is a ‘traditional’ career among individuals with a Ph.D. in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) discipline. We use longitudinal data that follows the first 7-9 years of post-conferral employment among scientists who attained their degree in the U.S. between 2000-2008. We use three methods to identify a traditional career. The first two emphasize those most commonly observed, with two notions of commonality; the third compares the observed careers with archetypes defined by the academic pipeline. Our analysis includes the use of machine-learning methods to find patterns in careers; this paper is the first to use such methods in this setting. We find that if there is a modal, or traditional, science career, it is in non-academic employment. However, given the diversity of pathways observed, we offer the observation that traditional is a poor descriptor of science careers.

Link to Paper

"Leaking Female Doctorates in the U.S. STEM Academy: A Review and Thematic Synthesis."

with Grace Gahlon (lead), Hannah Acheson-Field, Stephanie Rennane, and Melanie Zaber.

We present the results of a systematic review which explores the reasons why women are underrepresented (compared to their male counterparts) in STEM academic jobs. We conducted a thematic synthesis of key findings from the included records to identify common explanations for women’s leaks out of the STEM academic pipeline. Our systematic review yielded 98 papers in our final sample, and we derived 16 unique themes from the abstracted findings. We found: 1) there is limited research regarding individual choice and preference to work in STEM academic positions; and 2) there is limited research regarding demand-side factors (e.g., compensation and job availability). We discuss the consequences of the imbalanced literature and why it is important to remedy the paucity of research on these specific elements.

Link to Paper

Funded Work:

"Nontraditional Work, Nontraditional Workers, and Social Security," Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center, 2021-2022.

Works in Progress:

"The Relationship Between the Minimum Wage and Multiple Job Holding."


Workforce and Training


Workforce development; Post-secondary education


High school dropouts;  occupation; Puerto Rico; good jobs; STEM

Workforce and labor force are not the same thing. In public policy, the workforce encompasses the education and training institutions, programs, and systems that produce workers, while the labor force is the set of currently employed and searching workers. One way to think about it is that the experience and education of the labor force is the product of the workforce development system.


My research on workforce has been client funded at RAND and spans an array of questions: the challenges facing Puerto Rico in hurricane recovery, the career prospects for individuals who left or had interrupted high school, the labor market outcomes and opportunities for individuals who do not attend four-year university, and how to assess the competitiveness of pay in the public sector.


"What are the Skills Required to Obtain a Good Job?"

with Daniel Schwam and Melanie Zaber

RAND Corporation Research Report. RR-A271-3. 

This paper uses public data sets to identify the common skills among jobs that 1) do not require a college degree, 2) are expected to grow in the economy, and 3) pay above average. The analysis uses the Current Population Survey, Employment Projections, and O*NET database. 

Link to Report

"Benchmarks for Success: Expected Short- and Long-term Outcomes of National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Participants."

RAND Corporation Research Report. RR-A271-1. 

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program is a residential, quasi-military program for youths ages 16 to 18 who are experiencing difficulty in traditional high school.

The objective of this research was to provide ChalleNGe sites with a set of population benchmarks of individual outcomes with which to compare their cadets. The paper utlilizes the principles of partial identification models and builds benchmarks around the outcomes of high school dropouts, high school dropouts who earned high school–equivalent credentials, and high school graduates who did not attend two- or four-year colleges.

Link to Report

"Compensation and Benefits for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Workers: A Comparison of the Federal Government and the Private Sector."

with Maria McCollester, Brian Phillips, Hannah Acheson-Field, Noah Johnson, Maria Lytell

RAND Corporation Research Report. RR-4267.

In this report, we examine why STEM workers are of special interest to the federal government and the civilian economy. We describe and compare the characteristics, employment trends, and pay levels of the private- and public-sector STEM workforces to their non-STEM counterparts. The report concludes with a discussion of how compensation is but one component of hiring and retaining qualified workers in the federal government and presents a set of policy and research recommendations.

Link to Report

"Challenges and Opportunities for the Puerto Rico Economy: A Review of Evidence and Options Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.''

with Craig Bond. et al.

RAND Corporation Research Report. RR-2600-DHS.

In this report, we explain the history of economic development and policy in Puerto Rico and discuss the state of the prestorm economy, including key economic challenges. This report is part of a series commissioned by FEMA produced by the RAND Corporation, and was referred to as the Economics Sector Volume.

Link to Report

"Supporting a 21st Century Workforce in Puerto Rico: Challenges and Options for Improving Puerto Rico’s Workforce System Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.''

with Gabriella Gonzalez, Melanie Zaber, Megan Andrew, Aaron Strong, and Craig Bond

RAND Corporation Research Report. RR-2856-DHS.

This report is a follow-up to the economics sector volume and focuses on workforce and labor market issues in particular. One strategic goal in the post-hurricane recovery plan for Puerto Rico is the development of a modern workforce with relevant skills to meet the demands of an evolving labor market. The authors set out a course of action that strengthens the K–12 and post-secondary education and training system, develops career pathways for individual workers that would improve their employment trajectories, and better aligns workers' skills with employment opportunities and the needs of local businesses.

Link to Report



Resting Papers :(




Knowing when to quit

A resting paper is loosely defined as one that was developed and intended to be published but ultimately will not be. This can happen for several reasons, often because the results were null or too close to null for comfort. In service to the field, it is helpful to still advertise these research projects.

"The Intergenerational Wealth Effects of the Social Security Notch," with Nishaad Rao and Kegon Tan.

Variation and Premise: There was a temporary error in the way that Social Security old age benefits were calculated that resulted in considerably higher lifetime benefits to certain cohorts. The Notch, the name given to the error, has been used in several prior papers and is a proven identification strategy; researchers can use an RD to look at the differences among retirees who retire just before and after the policy error who are otherwise just a year different in age but receive different levels of benefits.


Aim: We compared the wealth of those two groups' children. Our basic question was, how does the wealth of parents affect the wealth inequality among children?


Result: Unfortunately, in both the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) we did not have enough power to identify mean or median effects. We did find results when examining subgroups of children divided by quintiles of wealth, but not enough to rule out that these results were not spurious.


"The Health and Well-Being Effects of Disability Insurance on Non-Disabled Spouses."

Variation and Premise: Individuals who have worked previously, have not worked for a period of time, and have a work-limiting disability can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Upon award, SSDI sends cash payments to the disabled workers based on their prior earnings and, after a waiting period, they are enrolled in Medicare. Researchers have previously used the award decision to estimate SSDI's effects. We also examined the period before and after Medicare eligibility.

Aim: We examined the health (through consumption measures like doctor's visits) and well-being (through self-reported health, stress, and earnings) of the non-disabled spouses of the SSDI recipient. Our basic question was, does SSDI have spillover effects on the spouse?

Result: The population of spouses had to consider marriages that ended or began during SSDI application and early receipt, or non-married partners. These were not small considerations, as it greatly effected the study population size and composition. The real challenge, however, was the tangle of overlapping mechanisms that came from health insurance and work. Couples varied in whether they had health insurance at application, whether it was private or public (mostly Medicaid) and if it was private, whose employer sponsored it. During our study window (1996-2012), health insurance coverage changed considerably. A similar challenge came from labor force participation and earnings. We identified several effects, but only when focusing on very small subgroups, which introduced less plausibility into our identifying variation and raised concerns of p-hacking.

Resting Papers
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