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Chief Evaluation Office

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.


2018-2019 DOL Scholars Program

The 2018-2019 DOL Scholars will conduct and complete research between September 2018 and August 2019. Projects focus on a range of labor-related topics such as: recessions in the U.S. local labor markets; registered apprenticeship programs in Ohio; independent contracting in California; and criminal justice contact and employment trajectories among young adults. Read more below on the work of this year's scholars.

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Brad Hershbein, Economist and Director of Information and Communication Services, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

image of Brad Hershbein

Recessions and Local Labor Markets: New Evidence on the Evolution of Economic Activity

Recessions have received enormous attention from researchers, policymakers, and the public. Most of this attention focuses on short-run, nationwide measures like the unemployment rate and GDP. However, both economic theory and anecdotal accounts suggest that recessions have much more severe effects on certain local areas, and that these effects could be persistent. This project will provide new evidence on the short- and long-run effects of recessions on local economic activity. Drawing upon newly compiled public-use data from multiple sources, the study will examine how earnings, employment, government transfers, and population evolve across local areas (counties, metropolitan areas, and commuting zones) that were differentially affected by national recessions. The study will examine variation in recession severity with multiple measures, including the proportional decline in earnings per-capita as well as a shift-share employment instrument based on industrial mix. Using an event-study framework that allows for control of local area and time period fixed effects, as well as a host of other possible time-varying confounders, the project will study every National Bureau of Economic Research dated U.S. recession since 1973, examining both the pre-recession and post-recession evolution of economic activity through 2017. The study ties together earlier research on the long-term effects of labor demand shocks on local areas (but that did not focus specifically on recessions), the scarring effects from recessions on individual labor market outcomes, and the decreases in geographic and labor mobility that have accompanied jobless recoveries. The findings will have implications for targeting of employment services and training as well as better understanding of persistent unemployment.

Tian Lou, Post-doctoral Researcher, The Ohio State University

image of Tian Lou

Evaluation of Registered Apprenticeship Programs in Ohio

The U.S. government aims to increase the number of apprentices to 5 million by 2022. Although there has been substantial growth in the number of apprentices, very little is known about whether and how they benefit from apprenticeship programs. This project will investigate whether apprentices have better labor market outcomes than individuals who have similar educational backgrounds but did not participate in any apprenticeship programs. The project will focus on high school dropouts and high school graduates, since compared with other education groups, these two groups are more likely to participate in apprenticeship programs and benefit from them. In addition, we hypothesize that if apprenticeships are beneficial, they may improve individuals’ outcomes because: 1) apprentices acquire work experience through apprenticeship training; 2) those who complete their programs can get a nationally recognized certificate, which signals their ability to potential employers. Thus, the study will further examine the relative importance of the training and the certificate. This result helps understand the outcomes of apprentices and design policy to improve the participation and completion rates of apprenticeship programs. To achieve these goals, the project will link the Registered Apprenticeship data in Ohio with UI Wages and Higher Education data to track individuals’ apprenticeship participation, education, and employment history.

Jesse Rothstein, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Director of Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and of California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley

image of Jesse Rothstein

The “Gig Economy” and Independent Contracting: Evidence from California Tax Data

This study will measure the prevalence and nature of self-employment, including independent contracting and on-demand platform (AKA “gig”) work in California with de-identified, individual-level data on the universe of California personal income tax returns. These jobs are excluded from US labor market regulations, enforcement, and various programs administered by DOL, so understanding the number of individuals who work primarily or exclusively in this sector is important to ensuring that workers are adequately protected. The study will examine tax returns, linked over time and to the companies that issue W-2s and 1099s to workers and independent contractors, respectively. Jobs will be categorized by the presence of self-employment income, by its share of the worker’s total earnings, by the type of work, and by the industry in which it is performed. The results will shed light on the growth and distribution of independent contracting in California and will provide valuable information for Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and other DOL agencies.

Naomi Sugie, Department of Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine

image of Naomi Sugie

: Naomi F. Sugie is an Assistant Professor in the Criminology, Law and Society Department at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on issues of punishment and crime, employment, families, inequality, and new technologies for research with hard-to-reach groups. Her recent projects examine prisoner reentry and the consequences of criminal justice contact for employment, mental health, and political participation. Her work is published in journals such as American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Demography, Social Forces, and Social Problems, and has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Justice, and National Science Foundation. Sugie earned a Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy, as well as a specialization in Demography, from Princeton University.

Criminal Justice Contact and Employment Trajectories Among Young Adults

In the United States, the expansive reach of the criminal justice system has made it a consequential labor market institution. As Western and Beckett explain in their seminal article on incarceration (1999), the criminal justice system provides two functions: first, incarceration removes less-skilled people from labor force counts, which diminishes the appearance of labor market inequalities in the short term. Second, the stigma of incarceration and criminal records negatively impact employment, wages, and earnings, which leads to labor market inequalities in the long term. Although scholarship on labor market and criminal justice systems centers on incarceration in prison, other forms of criminal justice contact (including arrest, incarceration in jails, and supervision) are more prevalent. The lack of attention to these other forms of contact suggests that the consequences of the criminal justice system for labor market outcomes have a far greater reach than currently considered. This project will assess the short- and long-term consequences of criminal justice contact for labor force participation and labor market outcomes using nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. In addition to labor market outcomes that are commonly considered (e.g., any employment, wages, and earnings), the study will utilize monthly measures of labor market outcomes, combined with novel sequence analysis methods, to assess instability and precariousness of employment and wages.

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.

Meet the 2017 Scholars

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