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Labor and Public Economics

Faculty in the Labor and Public Economics group at Yale work on a broad range of research, including the effects of taxes and welfare programs, wage and employment determination, education economics, and the analysis of racial and gender discrimination.

With strong senior and junior faculty, Yale has a diverse and vibrant group in labor and public economics. The faculty in labor economics are active in research on traditional topics such as the development of individual careers and human capital accumulation, as well as newer areas such as the labor market implications of health care reform, financial literacy, and behavioral economics. The faculty in public economics come together from several other sub-fields in the Economics Department. These include macro faculty who do theoretical public finance, environmental faculty who work on policies to address climate change, and health economists who work on health care policy. Several of our labor and development faculty also work on public policy issues.

The Cowles Foundation provides a uniquely supportive environment for work in labor and public economics. In addition to providing direct research support for faculty and graduate students, the Cowles Foundation funds a regular influx of short term and long term academic visitors, postdocs, and doctoral students from other institutions, who contribute to the research atmosphere in labor and public economics.

Seminars and Conferences

The Labor and Public Economics Program hosts two regular seminars. The Labor/Public Economics Workshop hosts top scholars from around the world who present their latest research. The Labor/Public Economics Prospectus Workshop is a more informal workshop designed primarily for graduate students working in labor economics and public finance to present research in progress. Faculty and visitors also use the workshop to present work in its early stages.

Every year, the Labor and Public Economics Program hosts a summer conference to bring together top economists in the field to present new research. Recent research topics have included the origins of the US opioid epidemic, the development of new tools to measure the tolerance of political regimes, the role of inheritances in the determination of wealth inequality, and the fiscal policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on the impact of expanded unemployment benefits on labor markets and household spending.

For more information about the Labor and Public summer conferences, see the Cowles Conferences and Workshops page.

Graduate Teaching and Research

The Department offers a two-semester sequence in Labor Economics (630 and 631). The first semester of the sequence includes topics such as static and dynamic approaches to demand, human capital and wage determination, wage income inequality, unemployment and minimum wages, matching and job turnover, implicit contract theory, and the efficiency wage hypothesis. The second semester covers static and dynamic models of labor supply, firm-specific training, compensating wage differentials, discrimination, household production, bargaining models of household behavior, intergenerational transfers, and mobility.

The Department also offers a two-semester sequence in Public Finance (680 and 681). The sequence covers theories of government provision of public goods, moral hazard, and adverse selection. Empirical methodologies vary from standard reduced-form techniques to structural estimation. Substantive areas include health economics, taxation, social security, and non-health components of government spending.

For detailed field descriptions, please see the Department’s PhD Program Page.