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Want a Raise? These U.S. Industries Are Driving Wage Growth

A new analysis shows wages are picking up in the U.S. thanks to a handful of industries, including manufacturing and construction
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Wages are finally accelerating, and if you dig into which industries are driving that change, there's reason to hope that the pickup could persist. 

That's the conclusion in a Kansas City Fed analysis of industry-level wage dynamics, the lead item in this week's economic research wrap. We're also taking a look at how mobile phones could help nations track their poverty rates, how beaches and mountains affect gentrification, the demise of the home as a bank machine, and globalization's impact on marriage in the U.S.

Check this column every Tuesday for the latest in new and pertinent economic research. 

Whose raise is it, anyway? 

Average hourly earnings, known as AHE, are picking up thanks to a handful of industries. Manufacturing, construction and wholesale trade have all been major contributors, even though they make up a relatively small share of total hours worked in the U.S.

``Though only a few industries accounted for much of the recent acceleration in AHE, it may yet be sustainable," Kansas City Fed economist Willem Van Zandweghe says in his study.

Meanwhile, industries reporting weaker wage growth have seen an uptick in hours worked, meaning demand for those workers is on the rise. Once the labor market tightens further, we may be in for a pay raise even in those sectors, which include education and health care. 

Wage Leaders and Laggards: Decomposing the Growth in Average Hourly Earnings
Published Feb. 15, 2017
Available at the Kansas City Fed website 

Can't afford data collection? Try mobile phones 

Guatemala gets data on poverty from surveys, but those are expensive and have only been conducted four times over the past 25 years. What if there's a better way?

World Bank researchers think they've found one. Analyses based on mobile phone data and machine-learning technology could offer reliable information on poverty rates. Such data usually don't reflect the content of calls and messages, but they do capture the time and duration of calls. Cell phone companies also have records of customer demographic information.

Call records "obtained from cellular phones provide highly granular real-time data that can be used to assess socio-economic behavior including consumption, mobility, and social patterns," according to the study.

Estimating Poverty Using Cell Phone Data: Evidence From Guatemala

Published February 2017
Available on the World Bank website

Flat city = shifting neighborhoods 

Neighborhoods gentrify and fall into decline all the the time, but they do it at different rates in different cities. As it turns out, geography plays a key role in these developments: Los Angeles's beaches keep its shore-side areas affluent, for instance, while it's easier for neighborhoods to change in a city like Dallas, which "more closely resembles a flat, featureless plain," according to a Philadelphia Fed study. 

"For cities as a whole, greater natural variation among neighborhoods can hold back neighborhood change, leading to overall stability in the spatial distribution of income," according to the study. 

Natural Amenities, Neighborhood Dynamics, and Persistence in the Spatial Distribution of Income
Published Jan. 31, 2017
Available at the Philadelphia Fed website 

Houses used to be ATMs. Now they're just houses 

Homeowners in the U.S. have rebuilt housing equity since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, but they aren't tapping into it the way they did before the crash, a New York Fed analysis shows.  

"It could be that the demand for equity withdrawal has fallen," they write, though they find that less creditworthy borrowers have been especially unlikely to leverage their wealth. That's consistent with the view that tight credit supply is "a main explanation " behind the slump in things such as home equity lines of credit.

Still, it isn't all bad news. "While this has likely slowed down consumer spending somewhat, the upside is that household balance sheets are unusually strong," the authors write. 

Houses as ATMs No Longer
Published Feb. 15, 2017
Available on the New York Fed website

No job, no wedding 

The number of young women who are married has dropped in recent decades, due in large part to a shortage of eligible men, new research by economists including MIT's David Autor and his co-authors shows. 

Between 1979 and 2008, the share of U.S. women between the ages of 25 and 39 who were married dropped 10 percentage points for the college-educated. The rate plummeted 20 percentage points among women with high-school education or less. At the same time, the share of children born to unwed mothers skyrocketed. 

Why can't women find a suitable husband? The loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs to global trade may be at least partially to blame.

The study shows there are fewer young men in areas that have been heavily impacted by Chinese imports, which the authors attribute partly to a rise in death from drug and alcohol poisoning, diabetes and lung cancer. Homelessness, incarceration and migration also play a role. 

Data "support the contention that manufacturing jobs are a fulcrum on which traditional work and family arrangements rest," the authors argue. "Trade shocks reduce the availability and desirability of potentially marriageable young men." 

When Work Disappears: Manufacturing Decline and the Falling Marriage-Market Value of Men
Published February 2017 
Available on the NBER website

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