Work, Earnings and Other Aspects of the Employment Relation: Volume 28


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Who works, how much one works, and what one earns are the cornerstones of labor economics. However, determining the answers to these questions can be tricky because many factors are involved in estimating labor supply, explaining the implications of labor demand, and determining the resulting earnings. This volume contains 13 chapters on these components of the labor market. Five deal directly with labor supply; four deal with labor demand, most notably the effect of cyclical demand fluctuations; and the remaining four deal with compensation, particularly wages, wage distributions, and fringe benefits.

Our econometric research allows for a possible response of a person's hours worked to hours typically worked by members of a multidimensional labor market reference group that considers demographics and geographic location. Instrumental variables estimates of the canonical labor supply model expanded to permit social interactions pass a battery of specification checks and indicate positive and economically important spillovers for adult men. Ignoring or incorrectly considering social interactions in male labor supply can misestimate the response to tax reform by as much as 60%.

Labor supply data seldom include detailed information on hours and wages in secondary job or overtime work. Based on survey information on hours and wages in overtime work and second job which is merged to administrative register information on income taxes and deductions we estimate a “Hausman labor supply model,” which allows for a detailed treatment of nonconvexities. Including explicit information on overtime pay and second job wages increase the estimated elasticities compared to a standard labor supply model without this information. However, allowing a more flexible treatment of nonconvexities the estimated elasticities are reduced; even below the estimates of the baseline results. In simulations we show that these findings have significant consequences when evaluating the degree of self-financing of various tax reforms.

We model transitions between unemployment, low-paid and high-paid employment by British men using a first order Markov model with endogenous switching that also takes into account the endogeneity of initial conditions, selection into employment, and sample attrition. Our estimates indicate that all three selectivity issues are non-ignorable. We demonstrate several interrelationships between the dynamics of (un)employment and low-paid work between one year and the next, represented by forms of (cross-)state dependence. Controlling for heterogeneity, the probability of a man having a low-paid job in one year depends not only whether he had a job a year before but also whether that job was low paid. The probability of his being employed at all depends on whether he had a job the previous year.

This paper aims to identify the relative contribution of the business cycle and structural factors to the development of part-time employment in the 15 Member States of the European Union before the 2004 enlargement (EU-15) over the 1980s and 1990s. To do so, it exploits both cross-sectional and time series variations in available data over the past two decades.

Key results include the business cycle that is found to exert a short-term negative effect on part-time employment developments, although this effect fades away over the two-decade period considered. This finding is consistent with firms utilising part-time employment as a means of adjusting their labour force to economic conditions. Correspondingly, involuntary part-time employment is found to be counter-cyclical, being higher in troughs of economic activity. Splitting our sample reveals a very significant effect of the business cycle on the rate of part-time work for young and male prime-age workers. Conversely, the effect is very weak for women and insignificant for older workers.

Institutions and other structural factors are also found to be significant, longer run determinants of the rate of part-time employment. Changes in legislation affecting part-time employment are found to have a strong and positive impact on part-time employment developments. Moreover, employment protection legislation is positively correlated with the part-time employment rate (PTR), which is consistent with the use of part-time work as a tool for enhancing flexibility in the presence of rigid labour markets. Less robust evidence suggests the presence of unemployment traps for some potential part-time workers. Cross-country evidence also indicates that the lower labour costs borne by firms when employing part-time workers have a large and positive influence on the PTR. Overall, a contribution analysis shows that the main structural and institutional variables generally explain the development in the part-time rate in the EU countries fairly well, while this is obviously not the case in the United States.

Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, we examine behavioral responses to a new generation of retirement policies that on average are actuarially neutral. Although many conventional models predict that actuarially neutral policies will not affect retirement behavior, our model allows those with high-time preference rates to find that the promise of an actuarially fair increase in future rewards does not balance the loss from foregone current benefits. Thus together with liquidity constraints facing those with high-time preference, we find that actuarially neutral policies do affect retirement behavior. One such policy follows on the elimination of the Social Security earnings test for those over normal retirement age, and would eliminate the earnings test between early and normal retirement age. Another of these policies would increase the ages of benefit entitlement. Still another such policy emerges from a central focus of the past few years on the adoption of personal accounts. Although Social Security benefits are currently paid in the form of an annuity, benefits from either defined benefit plans or from personal accounts may be made available as an annuity or as a lump sum of equivalent actuarial value. A related policy choice between actuarially equivalent benefits emerges on the pension side. There has been discussion of relaxing the current IRS prohibition against paying a pension benefit when a person remains at work, instead allowing partial pension benefits to be paid to those who partially retire on a job.

This paper examines the connection between illegal migration, minimum wages, and enforcement policy. We first explore the employers’ decision regarding the employment of illegal migrants in the presence of an effective minimum wage. We show that the employers’ decision depends on the wage gap between those of the legal and illegal workers and on the penalty for employing illegal workers. We consider the effects a change in the minimum wage has on the employment of illegal immigrants and local workers. We conclude by considering the optimal migration policy taking into consideration social welfare issues.

The costs of job displacement are examined on a sample of Japanese workers successfully provided job placement services from 2000 to 2003, a period of economic stagnation and structural change in Japan. We find that displaced workers suffer a loss of approximately $1,100 for each additional year of age. Workers also incur a large penalty when they change industries after being displaced. The age–earnings loss relationship is consistent with the operation of a delayed compensation scheme in large firms.

In this paper a simultaneous-equations model of firm closing and wage determination is specified in order to analyse how wages adjust to unfavorable product demand shocks that raise the risk of displacement through firm closing, and to what extent an exogenous wage change affects the exit likelihood. Using a longitudinal matched worker-firm data set from Portugal, the estimation results suggest that, under the existence of noncompetitive rents, the fear of job loss leads workers to accept wage concessions, even though a compensating differential for the ex ante risk of displacement might exist. A novel result that emerges from this study is that firms with a higher incidence of minimum wage earners are more vulnerable to adverse shocks due to their inability to adjust wages downward. Indeed, minimum wage restrictions were seen to increase the failure rates.

Using Spanish establishment-level data on temporary and permanent job and worker flows, we examine firms’ relative usage of fixed-term contracts in response to changes in their prior net employment expectations for the short-run and the long-run – viewed as proxies of how a wide variety of future shocks are ultimately perceived by establishments. The employment response of establishments to changing net employment expectations for the short-run is, primarily, suggestive of their reliance on fixed-term contracts as a buffer to cushion short-run changes in demand as well as to shield permanent workers from downward workforce adjustments. In contrast, their response to changes in net employment expectations for the long-run mostly hints on the use of fixed-term contracts as a screening device. Therefore, policies providing financial incentives to convert fixed-term into permanent contracts – thus targeting firms’ using fixed-term contracts as a screening device, are likely to only have limited effectiveness.

In this paper, we develop a simple model of the signaling value of the General Educational Development certificate (GED) credential. The model illustrates necessary assumptions for a difference-in-differences estimator that uses a change in the GED passing standard to yield unbiased estimates of the signaling value of the GED for marginal passers. We apply the model to the national 1997 passing standard increase, which affected GED test takers in Texas. We utilize unique data from the Texas Schools Micro Data Panel (TSMP) that contain demographic and GED test score information from the Texas Education Agency linked to pre- and post-test-taking Unemployment Insurance quarterly wage records from the Texas Workforce Commission. Comparing Texas dropouts who acquired a GED before the passing standard was raised in 1997 to dropouts with the same test scores who failed the GED exams after the passing standard hike, we find no evidence of a positive GED signaling effect on earnings. However, we find some evidence suggesting that our finding may be due to the low GED passing threshold that existed in Texas for an extended period.

This paper examines the relationship between the gender wage gap and occupational gender segregation in Sweden. The results show that the gender wage gap varies substantially across occupations. It is small in male-dominated occupations and relatively large in female-dominated occupations. Further, as much as 30% of the overall gender wage gap in Sweden can be attributed to occupational segregation by gender. Finally, the return to work experience for women is substantially higher in male-dominated occupations than in female-dominated occupations, suggesting that the cost for work interruptions are lower in female-dominated occupations than in male-dominated occupations. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that women choose occupations in which the penalty for work interruptions is low. Thus, occupational segregation may arise because of gender differences in preferences for occupational characteristics and not necessarily because of discriminatory practices by employers.

This paper is an extension of Blinder's (1973) and Oaxaca's (1973) famous decomposition. While they looked at the determinants of the wage gap between two groups, this paper not only considers any number of groups but it also proposes a decomposition technique that permits to analyze the determinants of the overall wage dispersion. The approach presented combines two techniques. The first one, popular in the field of income inequality measurement, concerns the breakdown of inequality by population subgroups. The second one, very common in the labor economics literature, uses Mincerian earnings functions to derive a decomposition of wage differences between two groups into components measuring, respectively, group differences in the average values of the explanatory variables, in the coefficients of these variables in the earnings functions and in the unobservable characteristics. This methodological novelty allows one to determine the exact impact of each of these three elements on the overall wage dispersion, on the dispersion within and between groups, and on the degree of overlap between the wage distributions of the various groups.

This paper goes, however, beyond a static analysis in so far as it succeeds in breaking down the change over time in the overall wage dispersion and its components (between- and within-groups dispersion and group overlapping) into elements related to changes in the value of the explanatory variables and the coefficients of these variables in the earnings functions, in the unobservable characteristics and in the relative size of the various groups.

The empirical illustration of this paper looks at data obtained from income surveys conducted in Israel in 1982, 1990, and 1998, special emphasis being put on the comparison between the earnings of new immigrants and those of natives or older immigrants.

Employer-provided benefits are a large and growing share of compensation costs. In this paper, I consider three factors that can affect the value created by employer-sponsored benefits. First, firms have a comparative advantage (e.g., due to scale economies or tax treatment) in purchasing relative to employees. This advantage can vary across firms based on size and other differences in cost structure. Second, employees differ in their valuations of benefits and it is costly for workers to match with firms that offer the benefits they value. Finally, some benefits can reduce the marginal cost to an employee of extra working time. I develop a simple model that integrates these factors. I then generate empirical implications of the model and use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to test these implications. I examine access to employer-provided meals, child care, dental insurance, and health insurance. I also study how benefits are grouped together and differences between benefits packages at for-profit, not-for-profit, and government employers. The empirical analysis provides evidence consistent with all three factors in the model contributing to firms’ decisions about which benefits to offer.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Labor Economics
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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