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Current Study

Department of Labor Scholars Program

CEO is excited to support the DOL Scholars Program. Since 2012, an annual competition has awarded a cohort of academics with up to $50,000 each, to conduct independent research relevant to DOL policies and program. These projects culminate in a final report summarizing the design, analysis, and findings, as well as a public-use data file, if applicable.


2017-2018 DOL Scholars Program

The 2017-2018 DOL Scholars will conduct and complete research between August 2017 and August 2018. Projects focus on a range of labor-related topics such as: contingent work in the U.S. labor market; the interplay among labor markets on American Indian reservations, tribal policy, and Native economic health; job characteristics and job retention of workers with disabilities; and variations in unemployment and re-employment rates by local economic conditions. Read more below on the work of this year's scholars.

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Daniel M. Deibler, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University

image of Daniel M. Deibler

Causes and Consequences of Contingent Work in the U.S. Labor Market

Since the end of the great recession there has been an increase in the number of contingent workers. While contingent workers represent more than 15% of the entire labor force, we have little information as to the effect of contingent work on these workers’ wages or hours. Our goal is to answer the question: what is the relationship between contingent work and wage equality for low-skilled and high-skilled workers? Our hypothesis is that contingent work reduces wages for low-skill workers (factory line workers) but increases it for high-skill workers (consultants). We will examine the role of contingent work status on benefits, differences in the level and volatility of wages, and impacts on workers’ safety and compensation. We will examine the effect of two shocks, legal changes and competition shocks, on wages and the number of contingent workers. To examine contingent worker share, we will use prediction techniques from machine learning (such as Random Forest) to expand the Contingent Worker Survey using common covariates in each month of the CPS. Additionally, we will develop an instrument for contingent worker share based on caselaw defining employees and contractors. This approach will require techniques from machine learning and language processing, to construct measures of the restrictiveness of legal rules defining employment across states. Finally, we plan to use trade shocks as an instrument for contingent worker share.

Beth Redbird, Assistant Professor, Sociology, Northwestern University

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Islands of Labor: Reservation Labor Markets and American Indian Economic Well-Being

Distinct institutional and policy features of Native labor markets create unique challenges that impact Indian economic well-being. This project explores the interplay between reservation labor markets, tribal policy, and Native economic health, and applies results to the broader question of poverty in rural areas and small communities. The project includes a descriptive investigation of tribal labor market structure, job initiatives, and policies to fill the gap in knowledge of tribal labor. It aims to provide a wide-scale understanding of job types found on reservations, who works and is unemployed, and methods by which tribes help members get jobs. The project also compares the structure of tribal labor markets with other types of regional economies, specifically rural labor markets and African-American urban areas, to understand the impact of job availability, industry monopoly, and labor policy on the economic well-being of residents. In addition, this project exploits differences in tribal labor policy, geographic area, and market structure to develop a theory of labor processes in closed monopolistic environments and determine the extent to which tribal market structure is driven by rural isolation, racial segregation, and unique monopolistic institutions. Last, using causal inferential techniques, the project determines the impact of policy and market structure on Native economic well-being. Utilizing a unique data set compiled by the researcher that collects information on tribal initiatives, labor policies, and services across all 577 federally recognized Indian tribes, the analysis follows changes in Indian economic well-being after policy enactment, or the introductions of initiatives and services, while controlling for tribal composition and broad economic trends.

Carrie Shandra, Assistant Professor, Sociology, State University of New York at Stony Brook

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Job Characteristics and Job Retention of Young Workers with Disabilities

People with disabilities experience significantly lower levels of labor force participation than people without disabilities in the United States. Although research has focused on work promotion among this population, cohort studies have been underutilized in the study of job separation among workers with disabilities who are in the labor force. I will use publicly available data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) to examine two research questions: What job characteristics are associated with retention of employees? And, do the characteristics associated with retention differ between workers with and without disabilities? To do so, I will utilize Cox regression and longitudinal employment histories from all 16 currently available rounds of the NLSY97 data. Disability will differentiate between the presence of a sensory, emotional/cognitive, and physical disability as well as by severity of the limitation. Job characteristics will include sector, benefits, scheduling, and job search. Job separations will be categorized into health-related, family-related, other voluntary and involuntary job changes or job exits. Understanding the characteristics associated with job retention for workers with disabilities is necessary for identifying opportunities for intervention. NLSY97, unlike previous cohort studies, allows for the unique opportunity to disentangle the timing of disability from the timing of employment, education, and family transitions. Results will fill a gap in the research literature and inform employer-level disability policy initiatives.

Wei-hsin Yu, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, College Park

image of Wei-hsin Yu

Falling In and Getting Out of Unemployment: Do Gender, Racial, and Class Differences Vary by Local Economy?

Unemployment is one of the events in life that may trigger downward mobility and diminishing well-being for individuals over the long run. Previous research indicates that the risk of undergoing unemployment differs for different social groups based on gender, race/ethnicity, and family socioeconomic background. Relatively few studies, however, use individual-level analyses to demonstrate net gender, racial/ethnic, and class-origin differences in the rates of transitioning in and out of unemployment, and even fewer examine how these differences vary by local economic context. In the proposed study, I will use longitudinal data from a contemporary cohort of young adults, in conjunction with time-varying unemployment rates for their specific metropolitan area, to investigate whether and how local economic conditions moderate potential gender, racial/ethnic, and class-origin gaps in the paces of entering and exiting unemployment. I will first generate baseline estimates by gender, racial/ethnic, and class-origin net of many individual characteristics that prior research has not considered (e.g., controls for prior unemployment or incarceration episodes). Next, I will test whether any identified baseline gaps widen or narrow with rises in local unemployment. I will also consider the extent to which any alterations in these gaps are associated with different groups' concentrations in industries and occupations that are affected differentially by economic downturns, as opposed to employers' altered or persistent preferences under economic pressure. Results from this project will provide evidence on the new and potentially different challenges economic downturns bring to different groups.

2016-2017 DOL Scholars Program

In 2016-2017, four scholars from recognized research institutions were competitively selected to participate in the DOL Scholars Program.

Meet the 2016 Scholars

Prior Years Scholars Program

2015 DOL Scholars Program

In 2015, five scholars from recognized research institutions were competitively selected to participate in the 2015 DOL Scholars Program.

Meet the 2015 Scholars

2013-2014 DOL Scholars Program

In 2013, six scholars from recognized research institutions were competitively selected to participate in the 2013-2014 DOL Scholars Program.

Meet the 2014 Scholars

2012-2013 DOL Scholars Program

In 2012, one scholar was competitively selected to conduct research under the DOL scholar program.

Meet the 2013 Scholar