What is the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)?
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) is a not-for-profit organization established in 1920. It aims to produce high-quality and objective economic research for policymakers, businesses, and academia.
Some of the most prominent economists are members of the NBER and contribute to its research database. Some well-known names, such as Robert Merton of the Black-Scholes-Merton Model, quantitative macroeconomist Thomas Sargent, and development economist William Easterly, are all associated with the organization.
Alongside providing high-quality research, the National Bureau of Economic Research also serves as a source of important data. It is best known for its business cycle data that records the dates of recessions and expansions in the U.S. and global economy. It offers data across many categories, such as demographics, healthcare, trade, macroeconomic indicators, finance, and trade.
The NBER conducts its research through twenty research programs and thirteen working groups that research different areas of economics. Some of the programs are discussed in detail below.
NBER Research Programs
The NBER’s research programs are divided according to major branches of economics. They are more generic, and most researchers fall into one or more of the twenty research programs.
The asset pricing program studies the fluctuation of the prices of financial assets, such as stocks, bonds, and currencies. The program develops and tests theories around fluctuations in asset prices, as well as documents empirical facts about markets for different financial assets.
The corporate finance program focuses on the study of capital structure used by corporations. They study organizational behavior, as well as the relationship between the corporate sector and the financial sector of the economy. The program also conducts a comparative study of corporations across the world.
The development economics program is highly empirical and tries to answer important policy questions using statistical tools like randomized control trials. The outcomes of the studies can be translated into policy prescriptions that governments can use to design and implement welfare programs.
The labor studies program studies the labor market in terms of employment level, compensation, and the factors that affect the labor supply and demand, e.g., immigration. It also studies organizational behavior like the impact of labor unions, compensation structures, etc.
Law and Economics
The law and economics program studies the interplay between the legal system and the economy. It focuses on the impact of legal regulation on the economy, as well as contract and tort law, which are essential to the functioning of modern economies.
The monetary economics program studies the conduct of monetary policy by central banks. It studies the effects of monetary policy, the economy, and key economic variables like unemployment and inflation.
Economic Fluctuations and Growth
The economic fluctuations and growth program studies the causes of economic growth and what triggers changes in economic growth. It is a multifaceted program that studies both micro and macroeconomic challenges to economic growth. It aims to provide a basis for policymaking that promotes and sustains economic growth.
The political economy program studies the interaction between economic policy and polity. The field is concerned with the limits of economic policy alone to determine economic outcomes. It studies the impact of political institutions on the outcomes of economic policies.
The other programs are Aging, Children, Development of American Economy, Economics of Education, Environmental and Energy Economics, Healthcare, Health Economics, Industrial Organization, International Finance and Macroeconomics, International Trade and Investment, Productivity Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programs, and Public Economics.
NBER Working Groups
The working groups are more specialized and produce interdisciplinary research on a specific topic. They involve researchers from different research groups and are more thematic based on current trends. The thirteen working groups are:
The behavioral finance program focuses on the application of psychology and cognitive science theories in finance. It tries to explain certain behaviors in financial markets through the lens of human psychology. They study the financial decisions of both households and corporations.
The increased specialization and advances in technology have led to an increase in entrepreneurship over the past few years. The group studies the venture investing markets, dynamics of early-stage firms, and decisions made by entrepreneurs.
The market design group looks at the structure of different markets. They study market mechanisms for things like telecom spectrum, electricity, treasuries, etc. They focus on optimal auction processes and points of failure in the market.
Risks of Financial Institutions
The recent advances in financial engineering have led to the development of new and complex products. It requires risk management to evolve with the changing markets and new instruments. The working group focuses on developing new risk management techniques and the implications of financial regulations for risk management.
The other working groups are Chinese Economy, Cohort Studies, Economics of Crime, Household Finance, Innovation Policy, Insurance, Organizational Economics, Personnel Economics, and Urban Economics.
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