Working Papers: All

We're building an archive of the key working papers on the social and economic effects of the downturn. Check back later for even more offerings!


Public Attitudes About Macroeconomic Policy in the U.S.

  • Authors: Steven M. Fazzari, Stanley Feldman, Cindy D. Kam, and Steven S. Smith
  • Date: April 4, 2013
Since at least the Great Depression, most economists and most Americans appear to have accepted that the government should play a significant role in managing the economy by adopting policies that stabilize employment, encourage economic growth, and control inflation. Nevertheless, Americans have always differed on the proper form and extent of government intervention, and these differences may have sharpened in recent decades. In general, policy attitudes appear to have sorted into liberal and conservative clusters and aligned more fully with partisan preferences (Abramowitz 2010). The Great Recession occurred in this context of party polarization and probably contributed to a continuation of change in party control of the institutions of government.

Recession, Religion, and Happiness, 2006-2010

  • Authors: Michael Hout, Orestes P. Hastings
  • Date: December 12, 2012
The General Social Survey panel of 2006-2010 tracked Americans' reactions to the election of Barack Obama and the Great Recession (officially lasting from December 2007 to March 2009) as well as to events in their personal lives. Americans were less happy in 2010 than in 2006; the percent "very happy" decreased by four percentage points and the percent "not too happy" increased almost as much. In the cross section, standard predictors - including church attendance, family income, and marital status - continued to matter. Looking from the dynamic perspective of the panel study, though, we see that job loss and changing family incomes mattered far more. Changes in marital status were also important for changing morale; marrying made people happier while divorcing made them unhappy. The subjective sense that finances were improving mediated a significant portion of the income-happiness association. The effects of unemployment and marriage are estimated in a way that supports the inference that finding a job or a mate actually causes happiness to increase.

Private Financial Transfers, the Great Recession, and Family Context

  • Authors: Aaron Gottlieb, Natasha V. Pilkauskas, Irwin Garfinkel
  • Date: April 4, 2013
Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N=4,701), we studied private financial transfers (PFTs) among mothers with young children during the Great Recession. We explored whether the unemployment rate was associated with PFTs received and whether family income and family structure moderated this association. We found that an increase in the unemployment rate was associated with higher odds of PFT receipt and an increase in PFT dollars received, suggesting that increased financial need, rather than decreased network resources, was the primary determinant of PFT receipt in the Recession. We also found that family income moderated the association between the unemployment rate and PFTs, whereas family structure did not. Specifically, poor and near poor mothers experienced higher odds of PFT receipt in response to high unemployment, whereas mothers with household incomes between two and three times the poverty threshold experienced lower odds of PFT receipt. Published: Gottlieb, A., Pilkauskas, N. and Garfinkel, I. (2014), Private Financial Transfers, Family Income, and the Great Recession. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76: 1011–1024. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12134.

Immigrants Equilibriate Local Markets: Evidence from the Great Recession

  • Authors: Brian C. Cadena, Brian K. Kovak
  • Date: June 6, 2013
This paper demonstrates that low-skilled Mexican-born immigrants' location choices in the U.S. respond strongly to changes in local labor demand, and that this geographic elasticity helps equalize spatial di fferences in labor market outcomes for low-skilled native workers, who are much less responsive. We leverage the wage rigidity that occurred during Great Recession to identify the severity of local downturns, and our results confi rm the standard fi nding that high-skilled populations are quite geographically responsive to employment opportunities while low-skilled populations are much less so. However, low-skilled immigrants, primarily those from Mexico, respond even more strongly than high-skilled native-born workers. These results are robust to a wide variety of controls, a pre-recession falsi cation test, and two instrumental variables strategies. A novel empirical test reveals that natives living in cities with a substantial Mexican-born population are insulated from the e ffects of local labor demand shocks compared to those in cities with few Mexicans. The reallocation of the Mexican-born workforce among these cities reduced the incidence of local demand shocks on low-skilled natives' employment outcomes by more than 40 percent.

Necessary Reductions or Increased Support? Parental Investments in Children during the Great Recession

  • Authors: Sabino Kornrich, Anna Lunn
  • Date: August 8, 2013
influence the intergenerational transmission of advantage and disadvantage. In this article, we examine the impact of one such event - the Great Recession of the late 2000s - on one potential mechanism of transmission: parents' financial investments in children. Because parents at different points in the income distribution have different resources, they may make different decisions or have different abilities to respond to times of economic hardship and uncertainty. We find that during the Great Recession, parents were less likely to spend on child care and spent less on enrichment goods and services for the home, regardless of their position in the income distribution. For education, however, we find that low-income parents were less likely to spend and that those who did spend spent less than before the recession began. High-income parents were equally likely to spend after the onset of the recession and spent even larger amounts than before.

The Great Recession and Married Parents' Use of Time

  • Authors: Ariel Kalil, Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest
  • Date: September 9, 2013
This paper describes the time spent by married fathers and mothers in home production and child-care over the period 2003-2011 in the American Time Use Survey (n = 37,228). The recession increased the likelihood that fathers participated in both home production and childcare. However, it decreased the amount of fathers’ time in home production among participants. This had the overall effect of lowering the amount of fathers’ time in home production in the recession by about 35 minutes per week. Fathers who participated in child-care spent the same amount of time doing so before and during the recession. Thus the recession had the overall effect of increasing the amount of time fathers spend in child-care by about 30 minutes per week. The recession did not change the likelihood that mothers participated in home production or child-care, but it decreased the number of minutes spent in home production among mothers who participated at all. The results are not sensitive to the inclusion of family socioeconomic characteristics but they do vary by parents’ education level.

The Great Recession and Mother's Health

  • Authors: Janet Currie, Valentina Duque, Irwin Garfinkel
  • Date: September 9, 2013
We investigate the impacts of the Great Recession on the health of women with children using the last two waves of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study. We model the financial crisis with changes in the state unemployment rate and we focus on a wide range of physical and mental health outcomes, as well as health behaviors. Our findings from the individual fixed effects models suggest heterogeneous impacts across demographic and socioeconomic groups. While a rise in the UR worsened the physical and mental health, and increased the likelihood of smoking and using drugs for disadvantaged women (minorities, unmarried, and those with low education), the crisis may have actually improved the health of more advantaged ones (Whites, marrieds, and high skilled). Our results confirm the importance of controlling for individual fixed effects to identify the causal impact of the unemployment on individual health outcomes.

Intimate Partner Violence in the Great Recession

  • Authors: Daniel Schneider, Kristen Harknett, Sara McLanahan
  • Date: September 9, 2013
In the United States, the Great Recession has been marked by severe negative shocks to labor market conditions. In this study, we combine longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study with Bureau of Labor Statistics data on local area unemployment rates to examine the relationship between adverse labor market conditions and intimate partner violence between 1999 and 2010. We find that rapidly worsening labor market conditions are associated with increases in the prevalence of violent/controlling behavior in marriage. These effects are most pronounced among whites and those with at least some post-secondary education. Worsening economic conditions significantly increase the risk that white mothers and more educated mothers will be in violent/controlling marriages rather than high quality marital unions.

Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality, and the Great Recession

  • Authors: Fabian T. Pfeffer, Sheldon Danziger, Robert F. Schoeni
  • Date: May 5, 2014
This research brief assesses two questions about the extent to which the Great Recession altered the level and distribution of wealth through 2013--the most recent year of data available on wealth held by American families. 1. By how much did wealth levels decline during the Great Recession, and by how much did they recover through 2013? 2. Did wealth inequality increase, decrease, or remain steady during the Great Recession?

The Great Recession and State Criminal Justice Policy: Do Economic Hard Times Matter?

  • Authors: Peter K. Enns, Delphia Shanks-Booth
  • Date: May 5, 2015
In the 1970s, the U.S. incarceration rate began to rise--and it continued to rise for nearly four decades. As a result, the United States now imprisons a higher proportion of its population than any country in the world. In recent years, however, the decades-long trend of increasingly punitive criminal justice policies and a growing prison population has subsided. Changes unimaginable ten years ago, such as the decriminalization of certain low-level drug o ffenses, the closing of prisons, and a decline in the overall prison population have occurred. By many measures, the United States is still the most punitive democracy in the world, but these changes are real and consequential. To understand these shifts, many scholars and pundits have drawn attention to the potential influence of the Great Recession. Not only did the Great Recession precede many of these changes, but it seems reasonable to suspect that largest economic shock since the Great Depression could in influence criminal justice policy and resulting incarcerations. After all, it costs a lot to maintain the world's highest incarceration rate. Yet, evidence of a relationship between past recessions and the incarceration rate is mixed at best. Were the eff ects of the Great Recession more substantial than previous recessions or do the recent shifts in criminal justice policy and the incarceration rate reflect factors beyond the economic climate?