The NBER at 100:
A Century-Long Search
for Facts to Underpin
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) was founded one hundred years ago — on January 23, 1920 — as a New York State nonprofit corporation. The founders, who were leaders in business and academia, declared that the organization would "encourage ... investigation, research, and discovery, and the application of knowledge... in the fields of economic, social, and industrial science." Its research program, formulated by founding Director of Research Wesley Clair Mitchell, focused on determining and reporting facts of relevance to economic policy, while adhering to the founders’ prescription to abstain from making policy recommendations.
In its first half century, the NBER supported a small group of researchers who carried out major projects on topics such as national income accounting, business cycle fluctuations, the measurement of monetary aggregates, and the role of human capital in labor markets, and who
published their findings in NBER volumes. More recently, it has concentrated on convening groups of its more than 1,500 college- and university-based affiliates to conduct research, on hosting research colloquia, and on enabling grant-funded research by its affiliates.
Former Director of Research Solomon Fabricant described the NBER's founding and early years in a short history. Over the course of 2020, the NBER will host a series of events to consider current and future directions in economic research.
Credit booms, when borrowers have easy access to credit at low cost, tend to be followed by unusually low returns to equities, both in absolute terms and relative to bonds, Josh Davis and Alan M. Taylor find.
The ‘China shock’ reduced employment in a number of U.S. industries, but follow-on declines in house prices in hard-hit areas created further job losses, possibly doubling the employment decline, according to Yuan Xu, Hong Ma, and Robert C. Feenstra.
Relative to residents of white neighborhoods, residents of black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer to vote in 2016 and were 74 percent more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place, M. Keith Chen, Kareem Haggag, Devin G. Pope, and Ryne Rohla find.
Veterans exposed to combat are 7 percentage points more likely to abuse prescription painkillers than veterans who were not deployed to a combat zone, according to research featured in the current edition of The NBER Digest. Also featured in this issue of the free, monthly Digest are studies of the benefits to young firms of winning the
H-1B visa lottery, the effect of
China's retaliatory tariffs on US consumption, and the relationship between
credit booms and equity performance, and the impact of a estate taxes on billionaires’ residency, and the decline in IPOs in the United States.
Why Hasn't Investment Come Back Strongly
in the Years Since the 2007-08 Financial Crisis
Among trends of great concern in the United States are a decades-long decline in productivity growth and relatively weak investment in physical capital that has persisted since the Great Recession. Research by Janice C. Eberly of Northwestern University and the NBER shows that the rise in importance of intangible capital can help explain both trends. Moreover, she finds that intangibles may be contributing to the rise of market concentration.
Edited by NBER Research Associates Josh Lerner and Scott Stern, the latest volume in the Innovation Policy and the Economy series explores changes in the ability of the United States to attract talented foreign workers, the role of sponsoring institutions in shaping immigration policy, the division of innovative labor between research universities and corporate labs, the effectiveness of various innovation policies in the pharmaceutical sector, effects of competition policy, uses of experimental policy design, and geographic disparities in innovation, joblessness, and technological dynamism.
Understanding the trends in self-employment at older ages is increasingly important as more Americans work into their later years. Results of a survey on self-employment is summarized in the winter issue of the free Bulletin on Retirement and Disability. The research shows that the share of self-employed rises sharply with age and that highly educated older adults are considerably more likely to be self-employed than less-educated workers. Also featured in this issue: a summary of research on
trends in retirement income adequacy, an exploration of research on the retirement
income choices of defined contribution plan participants, and a Q & A with newly appointed Retirement and Disability Research Center co-director James Choi.
New NBER affiliates are appointed through a highly competitive process that begins with a call for nominations in January. Candidates are evaluated based on their research records and their capacity to contribute to the NBER's activities by program directors and steering committees. New affiliates must hold primary academic appointments in North America. On January 1, 2020, there were 1,581 NBER-affiliated researchers based at 180 institutions.