What is the National Bureau of Economic Research?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2019
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The National Bureau of Economic Research, also known by its abbreviated name NBER, is a nonprofit, private research organization that is focused on teaching others how the economy functions, particularly in the United States. Among its goals, the National Bureau of Economic Research attempts to present unbiased research on the economy to academics, business people, and policymakers. Researchers who are part of this organization focus primarily on the development of new ways to measure changes in the United States’ economy, estimate new economic behavior models and analyze how certain public policies affect the economy. They also work to determine how an alternative public policy may change the way the economy is affected.

The history of the National Bureau of Economic Research is quite long. Beginning in 1920, research mainly focused on the economy as a whole. At that time, researchers typically examined the business cycle and the growth of the economy over a long duration. Since those early days, the organization has become well-respected by academics and policy makers in the United States and abroad. In fact, more than a dozen researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research have won the Nobel Prize in Economics. In addition, more than 1,000 researchers teach business and economics courses in universities and colleges across North America.


Research completed by members of the National Bureau of Economic Research usually falls into one of 19 programs or 14 working groups. Each program or working group is led by at least one director. The 19 research programs usually relate to traditional topics in economics, such as aging, children, corporate finance, or public economics. For example, the program related to aging involves research on how health and finances are affected as people age. The program focusing on public economics researches how taxes and government spending are affected at a local, state, and federal level.

Sometimes the group's research falls within one of the 14 working groups of the National Bureau of Economic Research. The working groups usually focus on a sub-topic of economics, such as behavioral economics, entrepreneurship, household finance, or urban economics. The working group researching household finances, for example, may look at issues that revolve around personal savings, borrowing choices, and investment decisions.

A board of directors governs the National Bureau of Economic Research. Members of the board include representatives from other economics-related organizations, economists from trade unions and businesses, and academic professionals from United States research colleges and universities. Although the main office of the organization is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, there is a branch in New York City as well.



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