Areas of Expertise (3)
Economics of Organizations
Kahn is a Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester. Her research focuses on labor economics with interests in organizations and education. Her most recent work uses data on job vacancy postings to examine whether the Great Recession accelerated technological change, exacerbating polarization of the U.S. economy. She has also developed a methodology for measuring the contributions of employer learning and productivity evolution in determining life-cycle earnings. In previous work, she examined the consequences of graduating from college in an economic downturn, finding surprisingly long-lasting, negative wage effects. That paper won the award for the best paper published in Labour economics in 2010/11.
She was previously an associate professor of economics at Yale School of Management. From 2010 to 2011 Kahn served on President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers as the senior economist for labor and education policy. She has also been a visiting fellow at Brookings Institution and is currently a Faculty Research Fellow at NBER and an IZA Research Fellow.
University of Chicago: A.B., Economics 2003
Harvard University: M.A. and Ph.D., Economics
- IZA Institute of Labor Economics
Selected Media Appearances (6)
The Great Recession: The downturn that wouldn’t end
University of Rochester Newscenter online
Lisa Kahn, a professor of economics at the University of Rochester, sees another lasting effect from the Great Recession. Many firms take the opportunity provided by a recession to introduce technologies that reduce their reliance on workers. “In the old days, we had bank tellers giving out money; now machines can do that,” says Kahn. “In manufacturing, we’re shifting more and more to machines instead of workers. And a lot of that shift takes place during recessions.”
Kahn points out that wages and employment have been falling for the last 30 years in exactly the types of jobs that are increasingly performed by machines. The fact that recessions exacerbate this automation trend, she argues, is another reason why we are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession.
‘Generation Jobless’ Looks Back on How Financial Crisis Shaped Careers Employees who entered the labor force around the financial crisis reflect on how a rocky start helped, hurt
Wall Street Journal online
Economists have long pointed to the dangers of beginning a career in a downturn. College grads who entered the job market during the recession of the early 1980s had, 15 years after graduation, wages that were 2.5% lower than graduates who didn't start out in a downturn, according to research by Lisa Kahn, a University of Rochester economist.
How to survive a recession and thrive afterwards
Australian Business Review online
It's tempting to think of a recession as a time to batten down the hatches and play it safe. However, downturns actually appear to encourage the adoption of new technology. In a 2018 paper, Brad Hershbein (of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research) and Lisa B. Kahn (of the University of Rochester) compared more than 100 million online job listings posted from 2007 to 2015 with economic data to see how the Great Recession affected the types of skills employers were looking for. They found that the US cities hardest hit by the recession saw a greater demand for higher-order skills—including computer-related skills. The boost in demand was partly due to employers' taking advantage of high unemployment to be choosier, as suggested by Alicia Sasser Modestino, Daniel Shoag, and Joshua Ballance. Their study found that the demand for tech skills returns to more normal levels once the labour market improves.
Millennials really are different, data show
Washington Post online
A recent Federal Reserve report confirmed that debt has held young Americans back.
Millennials who entered the labor market during the Great Recession or during the years of slow growth that followed have experienced less economic growth in their first decade of work than any other generation we looked at. (We considered work to begin at age 18, but results would be similar if we took college into account.)
The “large, negative wage effects of graduating in a worse economy” can persist for decades, according to a widely cited 2010 analysis by University of Rochester economist Lisa Kahn in the journal Labor Economics.
How to survive a recession and thrive afterwards
Harvard Business Review print
It's tempting to think of a recession as a time to batten down the hatches and play it safe. However, downturns actually appear to encourage the adoption of new technologies. In a 2018 paper, Brad Hershbein (of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research) and Lisa B. Kahn (of the University of Rochester) compared more than 100 million online job listings posted from 2007 to 2015 with economic data to see how the Great Recession affected the types of skills employers were looking for. They found that the U.S. cities hardest hit by the recession saw a greater demand for higher-order skills—including computer-related skills. The boost in demand was partly due to employers' taking advantage of high unemployment to be choosier, as suggested by Alicia Sasser Modestino (of Northeastern), Daniel Shoag (of Harvard Kennedy School and Case Western Reserve), and Joshua Ballance (of the New England Public Policy Center). Their study found that the demand for tech skills returns to more normal levels once the labor market improves.
Biggest Mistakes Companies Make When Hiring
Wall Street Journal print
Many companies say it's hard to measure the quality of hires after the fact. But plenty of companies have found a way to do something—they at least look to see whether those who scored better in assessments made during the hiring process are less likely to quit, or more likely to get promoted or get better performance appraisals. Any effort along these lines is better than nothing.
Of course, that sort of evaluation requires companies to make objective assessments of job candidates in the first place, something that many don't do. Only 48% of companies surveyed in 2017 by human-resources consulting, training and research firm ERC said they tested to see if candidates had the skills, job knowledge or abilities to do the work they were seeking.
What's more, such testing doesn't do a company any good if its hiring managers don't act on that information. One study found that human-resources managers who most often go against the results of employment tests and instead rely on their own judgment tend to get worse employees than those who rely more on tests, according to a 2018 article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics by Mitchell Hoffman of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management; Lisa B. Kahn, now at the University of Rochester; and Danielle Li of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Subscription required)