Monday, March 15, 2004


This has become the political and punditry question of the season. Writing in the WSJ last week, Robert Barro addressed it -- and the related question of disparities between the payroll and household surveys. He raised and dismissed various possible explanations. One of these was the rise of self-employment in the age of eBay (not likely to show up in the payroll survey).

The longer-run trend is perhaps more interesting. The BEA's REIS data show a steady rise in the share of non-farm proprietor jobs, from 10.5% in 1969 to 15.5% in 2001. Which regions and states lead? The red states? Which counties lead? The red counties? Anyone buying election futures may want to think about all this. Trouble is that productive people are often too busy to vote.