Martha Bailey, an MIP network member, is an Associate Professor of Economics and a Research Associate Professor at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan. In addition, she is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her work focuses on issues in labor economics, demography, and health in the U.S. within the long-run perspective of economic history. She is also the Principal Investigator of the NSF-funded Longitudinal, Intergenerational Family Electronic Micro-data (LIFE-M) project.
Please describe your area of study and how it relates to current policy discussions surrounding inequality.
I’m really interested in the long-run effects of the War on Poverty. I have a variety of new projects using administrative data to try and quantify the understudied returns to the era’s important programs, especially the returns in terms of affected children’s long-term labor market outcomes. I’m also putting together a new database (LIFE-M) which will allow us to measure long-run changes in families and inequality over the 20th century.
What areas in the study of inequality are most in need of new research?
So many. One of the things we know very little about is the dynamic processes that drive the evolution of inequality, either increasing or decreasing it over time. There’s also a dearth of evidence in the long-run effects of a lot of public programs and policies.
What advice do you have for emerging scholars in your field?
Work on things you love is rule number one. Don’t be afraid to go after hard questions. Don’t be put off by imperfect answers—keep learning and pushing to improve them.