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My Research

Research Interests

My current research incorporates elements of labor, regional, and demographic analysis. To date, I have projects that include elements of standard microeconomic and macroeconomic analysis, so neither title is completely appropriate. My research interests include: worker compensation rates, productivity and pay comparisons, differential effects of regional policies, impact studies, and the impact of shifting demographics on economic outcomes in the United States. A more in-depth discussion of my research is included in my Research Statement below.

A method for comparing compensation and productivity levels across US regions

Citation: Blake, C.D. A method for comparing compensation and productivity levels across US regions. SN Bus Econ 2, 195 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43546-022-00366-4

A common sentiment in popular discourse is that employed United States workers are undercompensated. This study investigates this belief and answers the question: “Are US workers really underpaid?” Answering this question requires a measure that can better assess the relationship between compensation and productivity levels. In this paper I develop a straightforward measure of workers’ real compensation relative to productivity that can be applied to different regional units of analysis and sectors in the U.S. I then estimate this “Compensation-Productivity Difference” (CPD) measure for each state over the years 2008 to 2019 for the six largest U.S. sectors. As a snapshot of average worker outcomes across the United States, CPD estimates show that, accounting for price differentials and ignoring sector, the average worker's compensation has indeed lagged behind productivity. This matches the conclusions of previous literature; however, such results become less consistent as region and sector are considered. In Midwest states, for example, productivity lagged behind productivity in some sectors over the sample. Because of its ability to display such nuanced labor market outcomes, the CPD represents a promising step in labor market research that would be of interest to researchers and policymakers alike.

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Regional Policies' Effect on on the Relationship Between Compensation and Productivity

This paper builds on a technique developed to analyze the relationship between average compensation and productivity across sectors in the United States. Previous work indicates significant regional heterogeneity in this relationship that price differentials cannot entirely explain (Blake, 2019). Through the lens of a labor supply and demand framework, I predict the effects policy is likely to have on this relationship. Using a panel dataset for the six largest U.S. sectors by employment, I estimate the effect of various state policies on the difference between average compensation and productivity rates during the years 2008-2017. There are two primary conclusions from this work. First, policies impact average compensation and productivity rates differently, thus highlighting the tradeoffs that state policymakers should consider before implementing a policy change. Secondly, marginal tax rate changes have a varied effect on industrial compensation relative to productivity while benefit changes tend to more uniformly affect this relationship. Understanding these nuances contributes meaningfully to the information required for policymakers to affect change in labor market outcomes as desired.


Higher education: The impact of recreational marijuana on college applications

Citation: Blake, C.D., Hess, J. and Thomas, D. Higher education: The impact of recreational marijuana on college applications. Contemporary Economic Policy (forthcoming)). DOI Forthcoming

Using a two-way fixed effects difference-in-differences model, we investigate the effects of local recreational marijuana (RMJ) policy changes on college applications and find that the three largest state public schools reaped, on average, an almost 54% increase in applications. This increase does not appear to come solely from low-ability students as both first and third quartiles of admitted student composite SAT scores to the largest three public schools do not decrease. Rather, they both increase by almost 3.8% though these estimates are not statistically significant. Robust difference-in-difference and event study models support the signs and magnitudes of these gains and show they diminish over time.

Heritage Language Labor Market Returns: The Importance of Speaker Density at the State Level

Vocal public opinion and mainstream media encourages immigrants to adopt English as their new standard of communication in the United States (Volkova, Ranshous and Phillips, 2018), which generates assimilation tension within these communities (Seals, 2018; Liang, 2018). In the context of English-First (EF) movements and resulting difficulties that immigrants face, we investigate the extent to which continuing the use of a heritage language in a predominantly monolingual economy is monetarily beneficial. Using the Public Use Microdata Sets, we find evidence of a concave relationship between the proportion of a state's population that speaks a non-majority language in the home and economic outcomes such as income and employment. The results quantify the benefits of speaking a heritage language for an individual, imply that EF movements do not benefit immigrant populations overall, and suggest a non-zero population proportion in which benefits to speaking a heritage language are maximized.


Research Statement