Timothy J. Bartik

Timothy J. Bartik Senior Economist

Dr. Bartik’s expertise is in state and local economic development policies, local labor market policies, and labor demand policies, analyzed from a local, regional, state, and national perspective. He also conducts research analyzing preschool as an economic development program.

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Research Focus: Wage Subsidies and Public Service Jobs to Promote Job Creation

Dr. Bartik’s research results over the years have made the case that job creation can be effectively promoted, at both the state and national level, by policies that subsidize private employers or public employers to add net new jobs. Dr. Bartiks work on this area includes

More recent work has outlined a proposal for a job creation tax credit at the national level. This proposal is advocated in a 2009 briefing report (#248), The Job Creation Tax Credit, with John H. Bishop, written for the Economic Policy Institute. Some questions and issues arising out of that proposal are addressed in a follow-up paper, Not All Job Creation Tax Credits Are Created Equal, for EPI and in this Q and A document.

Dr. Bartik has also suggested that a combined public service/private wage subsidy proposal, similar to a program called MEED (Minnesota Employment and Economic Development) that was used by Minnesota in the 1980s, could be an effective job creation strategy:

The overall premise of this work is that promoting job creation, particularly for the unemployed and underemployed, has great social benefits because of its long-run effects on worker productivity and economic well-being:

Research Focus: State and Local Economic Development

Dr. Bartik has conducted extensive research that has yielded results arguing that state and local economic development policies have the potential for providing significant social benefits, but only if these proposals are high-quality programs. Tax and other financial subsidies to attract business can sometimes be successful, but only if they are well-designed and carefully targeted at businesses with high wages and high multiplier effects:

Customized services to individual businesses frequently have higher benefit-cost ratios than tax subsidies to new branch plants:

  • “Design Matters: What Features of Business Incentive Programs and Early Childhood Programs Affect Their Economic Development Benefits?”
    Ch. 5, Investing in Kids.

In addition, Dr. Bartik has argued that state and local economic development policies should be viewed as labor market policies. Their goal should be higher local earnings per capita for current local residents. Therefore, labor demand approaches that intervene with individual employers should be complemented by policies to build skills. This argument is further developed in Dr. Bartik’s research on early childhood programs and economic development as well as in his work with George Erickcek on economic development benefits of higher education and medical institutions.

In recent work sponsored by the Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institution, Dr. Bartik has used his findings on state and local economic development policies to recommend strategies by which the federal government could encourage job creation in economically distressed areas. He recommends that federal policy focus on services that raise business productivity, which is likely to have a job creation impact at the local level per dollar of program costs. Such services include customized job training, manufacturing extension, and the variety of neighborhood services provided under the original federal Empowerment Zone program. Dr. Bartiks findings are summarized in a Hamilton Project Discussion Paper and Policy Brief. The conference at which the paper was presented was broadcast on CSPAN, and can be viewed here.

Finally, Dr. Bartik has argued that state and local economic development policies should be rigorously evaluated, and he has outlined techniques for doing so:

Dr. Bartik has developed a comprehensive vision of state and local economic development policy in several places, including in his book on early childhood programs, which extensively discusses both early childhood programs and business incentives.

Research Focus: Early Childhood Programs and Local Economic Development

Dr. Bartik has done extensive recent work analyzing early childhood programs as local economic development programs. The essential argument is that such programs, by increasing the quality of the local labor supply, can effectively promote the economic development goal of higher local per capita earnings. Furthermore, compared to business incentives, early childhood programs have more progressive distributional effects, and they have positive spillover effects on other states versus the negative spillover effects of business incentives. Early childhood programs can also benefit a wide variety of income groups. For example, universal preschool programs have dollar benefits on future earnings for children from middle-class families that are almost as large as the dollar benefits for children from low-income families, although the percentage benefits are greater for low-income children.

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Investing in Kids blog
Dr. Bartik’s work includes

Much of this research is summarized in Bartik’s book, Investing in Kids.