Aaron J. Sojourner

Senior Researcher, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
Chapter Member: Minneapolis-St. Paul SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Aaron

As a labor economist, Sojourner's research focuses on (1) effects of labor-market institutions, (2) policies to promote efficient and equitable development of human capital with a focus on early childhood and K-12 education systems, and (3) behavioral economic approaches to consumer finance decisions. Sojourner is a member of the Minnesota State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Care & Education. He spent the 2016-’17 academic year in D.C. serving as senior economist for labor at the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) for Presidents Obama & Trump. He is affiliated with IZA, the Minneapolis Fed, and the Roosevelt Institute.

In the News

Quoted by Ed Yong in "It’s a Terrible Idea to Deny Medical Care to Unvaccinated People," The Atlantic, January 20, 2022.
Quoted by Emily Strewart in "The Lesson America Refuses To Learn About COVID-19 and the Economy," Vox, January 12, 2022.
Quoted by Josh Boak in "Biden’s Economic Challenge: Finding Workers and Goods," AP News, January 7, 2022.
Quoted by Ella Fanger in "COVID-19 Relief Funds Fuel Employer Tax Breaks," The American Prospect, December 9, 2021.
Quoted by Dave Orrick in "Biden’s Visit Spotlights Technical Colleges, a Key to Infrastructure Building," Twin Cities Pioneer Press, November 30, 2021.
Quoted by Tami Luhby in "Unemployment Benefits Ended, but Hiring Did Not Surge in September,", October 10, 2021.
Quoted by Claire Cain Miller in "How Other Nations Pay for Child Care. The U.S. Is an Outlier.," The Upshot / The New York Times, October 6, 2021.
Opinion: "What Happens When States Limit Nondisclosure Agreements? Employees Start To Dish," Aaron J. Sojourner, The Washington Post, October 4, 2021.
Interviewed in "Can Investing in Early Childhood Education Beat Stock Market Returns?," Childs Path, September 23, 2021.
Research discussed by James Politi, in "US Economy," Financial Times, September 6, 2021.
Interviewed in "Policy Hackathon: How To Get More Americans Back to Work," Politico, July 15, 2021.
Quoted by Kavita Kumar in "New Child Tax Benefit Coming Thursday a Relief for Minnesota, U.S. Families," StarTribune, July 10, 2021.
Quoted by Heather Long in "Over 10 Million Americans Applied for Unemployment Benefits in March as Economy Collapsed," The Washington Post, April 2, 2020.
Opinion: "Medicaid Expansion Reduced Unpaid Medical Debt and Increased Financial Satisfaction," Aaron J. Sojourner, Health Affairs , July 24, 2017.
Opinion: "The Case for Mandating Paid Sick Leave in Minneapolis," Aaron J. Sojourner (with Nicolas Ziebarth), Star-Tribune, April 19, 2016.
Opinion: "Should Minnesota Raise Its Minimum Wage? Yes," Aaron J. Sojourner (with Michael Reich), Minneapolis Star-Tribune, February 23, 2013.
Opinion: "Say No to Right to Work," Aaron J. Sojourner, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, February 18, 2012.


"Can Intensive Early Childhood Intervention Programs Eliminate Income-Based Cognitive and Achievement Gaps?" (with Greg Duncan). Journal of Human Resources 48, no. 4 (2013): 945-968.

Finds that high-quality early childhood intervention has large positive effects on cognitive skills and achievement for children from low-income families, but a negligible effect for children from higher-income families. Either an income-targeted or universal intervention could close a large fraction of the existing achievement gap observed between these groups.

"Common Ownership in Labor Markets," (with Jose Azar and Yue Qiu), University of Minnesota, July 9, 2022.

Studies common ownership in U.S. labor markets, and documents that common ownership more than doubled over the period 1999–2017. Uses a firm’s addition to the S&P 500 index as a shock to the common ownership of its competitors in local labor markets to identify the causal effects of common ownership on labor market outcomes. Finds that using a matched difference-in-differences analysis, after a firm enters the S&P 500 index, the average annual earnings per employee of its local competitors decrease relative to the counterfactual.

"Felon History and Change in U.S. Employment Rates" Social Science Research (2021).

Draws on novel, state-level annual measures of individuals with felony-level records to estimate pooled cross-sectional, panel models predicting changes in aggregate employment rates. Indicates that a 1 percentage point increase in the share of a state's adult population with a felony history is associated with 0.3 percentage point increase in non-employment (being unemployed or not in the labor force) among those aged 18 to 54.

"What Will My Account Really Be Worth? Experimental Evidence on How Retirement Income Projections Affect Saving" (with Gopi Shah Goda and Colleen Flaherty Manchester). Journal of Public Economics 119 (2014): 80-92.

Highlights how retirement-income projections affect employee contributions to savings account.

"Are Voluntary Agreements Better? Evidence from Baseball Arbitration" (with Jaewoo Jung and John W. Budd). ILR Review 70, no. 4 (2016): 865-893.

Examines the widespread belief that voluntarily negotiated agreements produce better long-run relationships than do third-party imposed resolutions. such as arbitrator decisions or court judgments. 

"Teacher Pay Reform and Productivity: Panel Data Evidence from Adoptions of Q-Comp in Minnesota " (with Elton Mykerezi and Kristine West ). Journal of Human Resources 49, no. 4 (2014): 945-981.

Studies the impact of teacher pay-for-performance reforms adopted with complementary human resource management practices on student achievement and workforce flows. 

"Impacts of Unionization on Quality and Productivity: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Nursing Homes" (with Brigham Frandsen, Robert Town, David Grabowski, and Michelle Chen). Industrial and Labor Relations Review 68, no. 4 (2015): 771-806.

Studies the effects of nursing home unionization on numerous labor, establishment, and consumer outcomes using a regression discontinuity design. Finds negative effects of unionization on staffing levels and no decline in care quality, suggesting positive labor productivity effects. 

"Brief: Do Income Projections Affect Retirement Savings?," (with Gopi Shah Goda and Colleen Flaherty Manchester), Center for Retirement Research, March 31, 2013.
Suggests that providing workers with retirement income projections, accompanied by information on retirement planning, could modestly increase saving.
"Do Unions Promote Electoral Office Holding? Evidence from Correlates of State Legislatures' Occupational Shares" Industrial & Labor Relations Review 66, no. 2 (2013): 467-486.

Develops the first evidence on the degree to which labor unions develop members’ political leadership in the broader community by studying the relationship between state legislators’ occupations and the unionization rates of occupations across U.S. states, and finds that unions do indeed promote elected political leadership by individuals from working- and middle-class jobs.

"Identification of Peer Effects with Missing Peer Data: Evidence from Project STAR" Economic Journal 123, no. 569 (2013): 574-605.
Studies peer effects on student achievement among first graders randomly assigned to classrooms in Tennessee’s Project STAR.
"What Will My Account Really be Worth? Experimental Evidence on How Retirement Income Projections Affect Saving," (with Gopi Shah Goda and Colleen Flaherty Manchester), National Bureau of Economic Research, February 29, 2012.
Uses a large-scale field experiment to measure how a low-cost, direct-mail intervention designed to inform subjects about how current contributions can translate into income in retirement affects their saving behavior.
"Impacts of Unionization on Quality and Productivity: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Nursing Homes," (with Robert J. Town, David C. Grabowski, Michelle M. Chen, and Brigham Frandsen), National Bureau of Economic Research, December 31, 2011.
Studies the effects of unions in private-sector nursing homes on a broad range of labor, firm, and consumer outcomes.