About RAND Labor and Population

A Program on Issues of National Concern

RAND Labor and Population has built a national and international reputation for conducting high-quality, empirical research to support and improve policies and organizations around the world. Researchers currently conduct national and international research in seven areas of policy concern:

Many of L&P's studies reside in one of the following centers: the Center for the Study of Aging, the Center for Aging Studies in Asia, the Center for Financial and Economic Decision Making, the Population Research Center and the Center for Latin American Social Policy. The issues studied include the economic position of minorities, changes in the female labor force, wealth and income disparities, the causes and consequences of family formation and fertility trends, child health and development, poverty and welfare policy, health and fertility in developing countries, financial planning and retirement, and the health and functioning of older people, among others.

Despite their diversity, the studies have a common aim: to understand why people make the decisions they do and how markets, society, and policy affect them. The program's studies are distinctive in several other ways:

  • They integrate the perspectives of various academic disciplines, including economics, sociology, demography, and epidemiology.
  • Most use data on individuals and families (microdata).
  • They apply advanced statistical analytic methods to understand the effects of major policy issues.

Advancing the Field

Contributing to basic research is another hallmark of the program, which has advanced the field in both development of models and data collection. Most of the program's demographic studies apply advanced statistical models to separate out effects that might otherwise distort the policy picture. Some of these models were developed by program staff.

Program staff have also been involved in designing and fielding surveys and analyzing the resulting large, comprehensive microlevel databases: for example, the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Study, the First, Second, and Third Malaysian Family Life Surveys (MFLS 1,2,3); the First, Second, and Third Indonesian Family Life Surveys (IFLS 1,2, 3); the Indonesian Resource Mobilization Study (IRMS); the Matlab Health and Socioeconomic Survey in Bangladesh (MHSS); and the Guatemala Survey of Family Health (EGSF). These databases contain detailed current and retrospective information-at the individual, household, and community levels-on a range of demographic, social, health, and economic topics not found in most other data sources. They are widely used in research within and outside of RAND.

Other Programs and Activities

The Labor and Population Program engages in various other activities intended to advance the field and support its research and policy missions.

Improving Policy

The program has a long tradition not only of conducting research and policy analysis but also of working with government and agency officials to implement, evaluate, and refine public policies. Staff have worked closely with developing country governments. They have also testified before congressional committees; briefed staff of federal, state and local government departments and of such organizations as the Agency for International Development and the World Health Organization; and served on advisory committees for such organizations as the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health.

Training and Institution Building

Training researchers is an important part of the program's commitment to scientific research and analysis. The program supports the RAND Fellows in the Study of Aging and Population Studies program through funding provided by NICHD and NIA and by RAND using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND's donors and the fees earned on client-funded research.

The program has also sponsored year-long fellowships and shorter study visits for students and researchers from developing countries. In addition to these efforts, program staff have worked with public agencies, research institutions, and governments in many developing countries conducting, for example, in-country workshops and survey-research projects.

The program supports various other activities to further its research and training objectives:

Reaching a Range of Audiences

Labor and Population program staff communicate their research to policymakers, sponsors, and the scientific community through briefings, conference presentations, research seminars, international workshops, books, articles in leading professional journals, and RAND reports and special publications, and research briefs and issue papers.. The program's Working Paper Series provides a forum for publishing work in progress and soliciting comments from fellow researchers within and outside of RAND. To distribute the staff's journal articles widely, the program publishes them in the RAND Reprint Series.

More information on current Labor and Population research, and other activities, can be found in recent issues of RAND's Annual Reports

A Commitment to Diversity

Diversity pervades RAND Labor and Population both in the composition of its staff and the research projects we do. We are an international group of economists, statisticians, and behavioral scientists. More than half of our researchers are women. We do research affecting people in all age groups (children, adults, the elderly), diverse ethnic and racial groups, and people located throughout the United States and around the world.

L&P research has documented race/ethnic disparities in important outcomes and sought to understand the factors behind those disparities as well as implications for policy to reduce these disparities. Some recent examples:

  • Duncan Thomas and Janet Currie's work on Headstart and Latinos
  • James Smith's work on race and ethnicity in the labor market and assimilation among Latinos—The New Immigrant Survey (in its 7th year, Funded by NICHD, National Institute for Child Health and Development).
  • Narayan Sastry's work on race/ethnic disparities in birthweight, Socioeconomic and Ethnic Disparities in Adult Health (Funded by the NIA, National Institute Aging, and LA FANS (Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (http://lasurvey.rand.org/)