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Alex BellPostdoctoral Scholar, Los Angeles

Alex Bell is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the California Policy Lab at UCLA. Prior to joining CPL, Dr. Bell earned a PhD in Economics from Harvard University. At CPL, Dr. Bell is part of a team focused on labor and employment. In this role, he leads economic analyses, authors academic papers and policy briefs, and presents results at conferences and seminars.

Dr. Bell’s research documents unequal experiences of workers in the labor market and the implications of these inequalities for society as a whole. Much of his research has leveraged large-scale administrative datasets to inform research on these topics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he co-authored a series of rapid-response analyses of the crisis’ disparate economic impacts on workers through the lens of California’s unemployment insurance claims microdata and deployed quasi-experimental research designs to measure how workers responded to the more generous federal unemployment benefits provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a methodological line of research, he has put forward a new framework for economists to study the role of job choice in income inequality. Ongoing work extends the framework to measure the importance of geographic amenities in housing inequities and gentrification.

Another line of Dr. Bell’s applied labor market research studies the intersection of inequality of opportunity with innovation. Through linking US tax records and data on who is granted patents, he has examined costs to society of lost innovation resulting from socioeconomic barriers that kids face and the role exposure to innovation may play in reducing childhood disparities across gender, race, and parental background. In related work, he has analyzed effects on innovation of both tax progressivity and peer spillovers. Another project seeks to isolate the social exposure channel in children’s success by using data from a 30-year-old randomized control trial of a mentoring program and linking it with present-day administrative tax records. Dr. Bell’s upcoming work on innovation and inequality will explore the role of student loan policy on innovation through a linkage of patent and credit bureau records.

Dr. Bell’s research has appeared in top economics publications, including the Quarterly Journal of Economics and American Economic Review. His research has also been featured in media outlets including The New York Times, Vox, and The Economist, as well as in the 2019 USPTO report to Congress on under-represented groups in innovation. Dr. Bell’s research has been supported by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Kauffman Foundation, and Arnold Foundation.

Outside of work, he can be found building furniture from salvaged wood, metal, and occasionally sailboats.

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