About the BE-Lab

The Blair Economics Lab (BE-Lab) is an Economics research group based at Harvard University in the Graduate School of Education. Our research in applied micro-theory focuses on supply-side issues in higher education, the effects of occupational licensing on labor market discrimination, and the link between residential segregation and educational outcomes.We work collaboratively with faculty and students from the Wharton School, Duke University, the University of Chicago and Cornell University.

Hurricane Dorian Alert 9/2/2019:

As of Sept 1, 2019 the Bahamas has experienced a Category 5 Hurricane Dorian, packing 180mph+ winds. The physical extent of the storms is almost as large as the entire country and the storm is slow-moving = maximal damage. The images coming from the affected islands are heartbreaking. I spoke with my family and everyone is safe, but there are other families who will have lots everything by the time you finish reading this message. If you feel inclined please donate to the recovery effort: https://www.facebook.com/donate/648518742223936/ (to be live in 24 hrs). All proceeds will go towards organizations providing on-the-ground relief. Also donate to the Bahamas Red Cross (www.bahamasredcross.org) and well-established international organizations.

Meet the Team

Dr. Peter Q. Blair

Principal Investigator
Dr. Peter Q. Blair (Assistant Professor of Economics, Harvard University)
Faculty Website: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/faculty/peter-blair
Curriculum Vitae (Resume)

Graduate Students: Bobby Chung (Job Market Candidate), Benjamin Posmanick, Kenneth Whaley, Eli Neilsen, and Majid Hashem.

Current Research Projects

Projects on Labor Market Inequality
  1. Job Market Signaling through Occupational Licensing (joint with Bobby Chung) Under Review
  2. How Much of a Barrier to Entry is Occupational Licensing? (joint with Bobby Chung) Revise & Resubmit
    • NBER Working Paper 25262
  3. The Effect of (Un)Imposed Labor Market Flexibility on Gender Wage Gaps (joint with Ben Posmanick)

Projects on Supply-side questions in Higher Education
  1. Why Don't Elite Colleges Expand Supply? (joint w/ Kent Smetters, Wharton)
Projects on Residential Segregation and Labor Market Discrimination:
  1. The Effect of Outside Options on Neighborhood Tipping Points (Job Market Paper)
  2. The Consequences of Decentralized Racial Sorting (joint w/ Patrick Bayer and Victor Yee, Duke)

Projects on the Role of Property Rights on Economic Development

  1. The Effect of Selective Property Rights Restrictions on Economic Growth

Working Paper

 "Occupational Licensing Reduces Gender and Racial Wage Gaps: 

Evidence from the Survey of Income & Program Participation" (joint w/ Bobby Chung, Clemson)(Co-

Abstract: As a condition for legal employment, US state governments require occupational licenses of 25% of their workforce. We show that occupational licensing reduces the wage gap between black men and white men (by 43%), and the wage gap between women and white men (by 36%-40%). Black men benefit from licenses that signal non-felony status, whereas white women benefit from licenses with a human capital requirement, e.g., continuous education. Certification, a less distortionary alternative to licensing,  generates an equivalent wage premium to occupational licensing for white men, but lower wage premiums than licensing for women and black men.

Working Paper

Why Don't Elite Colleges Expand Supply? (joint w/ Kent Smetters, Wharton)

Abstract: While college enrollment has more-than doubled since 1970, elite colleges have only slightly increased supply, instead reducing admit rates. We show that straightforward reasons cannot explain this behavior. We propose a model where colleges compete on prestige, measured as relative selectivity or admit rates. Higher demand decreases [increases] the admit rate if the weight on prestige is above [below] a critical value, consistent with experience in elite [non-elite] colleges. The calibrated model closely replicates the data while counter-factual simulations, with prestige turned off, fails. The "prestige externality'' is Pareto inefficient, with schools and students worse off, producing large welfare losses.