Findings

To employ or not to employ

Kevin Lewis

February 15, 2017

Minimum Wages and Relational Contracts

Matthias Fahn

Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
The need to give incentives is usually absent in the literature on minimum wages. However, especially in the service sector it is important how well a job is done, and employees must be incentivized to perform accordingly. Furthermore, many aspects regarding service quality cannot be verified and relational contracts have to be used to provide incentives. The present article shows that in this case, a minimum wage increases implemented effort, as well as the efficiency of an employment relationship. Hence, it can be explained why productivity and service quality went up after the introduction of the British National Minimum Wage, and that this might actually have caused a more efficient labor market. Furthermore, if workers have low bargaining power, a higher minimum wage also increases profits and consequently employment. Therefore, the present article presents a new perspective on reasons for why minimum wages often have no or only negligible negative employment effects.

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Declining Labor and Capital Shares

Simcha Barkai

University of Chicago Working Paper, November 2016

Abstract:
This paper shows that the decline in the labor share over the last 30 years was not offset by an increase in the capital share. I calculate payments to capital as the product of the required rate of return on capital and the value of the capital stock. I document a large decline in the capital share and a large increase in the profit share in the U.S. non-financial corporate sector over the last 30 years. I show that the decline in the capital share is robust to many calculations of the required rate of return and is unlikely to be driven by unobserved capital. I interpret these results through the lens of a standard general equilibrium model, and I show that only an increase in markups can generate a simultaneous decline in the shares of both labor and capital. I provide reduced form empirical evidence that an increase in markups plays a significant role in the decline in the labor share. These results suggest that the decline in the shares of labor and capital are due to an increase in markups and call into question the conclusion that the decline in the labor share is an efficient outcome.

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Concentrating on the Fall of the Labor Share

David Autor et al.

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
The recent fall of labor's share of GDP in numerous countries is well-documented, but its causes are poorly understood. We sketch a "superstar firm" model where industries are increasingly characterized by "winner take most" competition, leading a small number of highly profitable (and low labor share) firms to command growing market share. Building on Autor et al. (2017), we evaluate and confirm two core claims of the superstar firm hypothesis: the concentration of sales among firms within industries has risen across much of the private sector; and industries with larger increases in concentration exhibit a larger decline in labor's share.

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Estimating the Employment Effects of Recent Minimum Wage Changes: Early Evidence, an Interpretative Framework, and a Pre-Commitment to Future Analysis

Jeffrey Clemens & Michael Strain

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
This paper presents early evidence on the employment effects of state minimum wage increases enacted between January 2013 and January 2015, and offers an interpretative framework to understand why it is of interest to study recent changes in isolation. Given the ongoing transitions of many states' minimum wage rates, we also set the stage for a pre-committed analysis of the minimum wage changes scheduled for coming years. Through 2015, we estimate that employment among young adults and young individuals with less than a completed high school education expanded modestly less quickly in states that enacted one-time or multi-phase statutory minimum wage increases than in states that enacted no minimum wage increases. Across the specifications we implement and the samples we analyze, many of our estimates are statistically indistinguishable from zero. Data on the longer-run effects of this period's minimum wage changes will be essential for more fully assessing these changes' effects and for drawing strong conclusions regarding how minimum wage increases affect employment in this decade's institutional and economic environment. As data become available for the full 2016 through 2019 calendar years, we will execute and report the results of analyses that follow the road map this paper develops.

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Does Manufacturing Matter for Economic Growth in the Era of Globalization?

Roshan Pandian

Social Forces, March 2017, Pages 909-940

Abstract:
This study adjudicates between two competing perspectives regarding the importance of manufacturing employment for economic growth with the onset of the most recent round of economic globalization. Established economic theories link shifts toward industrial activities to higher growth due to increases in aggregate productivity. While some scholars argue that the global restructuring of manufacturing in the era of globalization presents novel opportunities for development in the South, others suggest that the importance of manufacturing employment for economic growth in less developed countries declines during this period as competitive pressures increase and barriers to entry decline. I use difference models and a broad sample of both developed and less developed countries in the time period 1970-2010 to examine the effects of manufacturing share of employment on economic growth and how these effects have changed over time. First, I find that manufacturing employment has strong positive effects on economic growth net of neoclassical controls for all countries. Second, I find that for less developed countries, the importance of manufacturing share of employment for growth has declined through the course of the time period studied, particularly after 1990. In contrast, my results do not show a similar decline for developed countries. These findings are robust across alternative estimation strategies. I conclude by considering the theoretical implications of these results.

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Recent Flattening in the Higher Education Wage Premium: Polarization, Skill Downgrading, or Both?

Robert Valletta

NBER Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
Wage gaps between workers with a college or graduate degree and those with only a high school degree rose rapidly in the United States during the 1980s. Since then, the rate of growth in these wage gaps has progressively slowed, and though the gaps remain large, they were essentially unchanged between 2010 and 2015. I assess this flattening over time in higher education wage premiums with reference to two related explanations for changing U.S. employment patterns: (i) a shift away from middle-skilled occupations driven largely by technological change ("polarization"); and (ii) a general weakening in the demand for advanced cognitive skills ("skill downgrading"). Analyses of wage and employment data from the U.S. Current Population Survey suggest that both factors have contributed to the flattening of higher education wage premiums.

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Price Floors and Employer Preferences: Evidence from a Minimum Wage Experiment

John Horton

NYU Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
Firms posting job openings in an online labor market were randomly assigned minimum hourly wages. When facing a minimum wage, fewer firms made a hire, but those workers they did hire were paid a higher wage. However, the reduction in hiring was not large, even at the highest minimum wage imposed. In contrast, minimum wages substantially reduced hours-worked, across cells. Firms facing a higher minimum wage also hired more productive workers, which can explain, in part, the reduction in hours-worked: with more productive workers, projects were simply completed in less time. This labor-labor substitution margin of adjustment would presumably be less effective in equilibrium, if all firms sought out more productive workers. However, using the platform's imposition of a market-wide minimum wage after the experiment, I find that many of the experimental results also hold in equilibrium, including the labor-labor substitution towards more productive workers.

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Understanding the Long-Run Decline in Interstate Migration

Greg Kaplan & Sam Schulhofer-Wohl

International Economic Review, February 2017, Pages 57-94

Abstract:
We analyze the secular decline in gross interstate migration in the United States from 1991 to 2011. We argue that migration fell because of a decline in the geographic specificity of returns to occupations, together with an increase in workers' ability to learn about other locations before moving. Micro data on earnings and occupations across space provide evidence for lower geographic specificity. Other explanations do not fit the data. A calibrated model formalizes the geographic specificity and information mechanisms and is consistent with cross-sectional and time-series evidence. Our mechanisms can explain at least half of the decline in migration.

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Secular Stagnation? The Effect of Aging on Economic Growth in the Age of Automation

Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
Several recent theories emphasize the negative effects of an aging population on economic growth, either because of the lower labor force participation and productivity of older workers or because aging will create an excess of savings over desired investment, leading to secular stagnation. We show that there is no such negative relationship in the data. If anything, countries experiencing more rapid aging have grown more in recent decades. We suggest that this counterintuitive finding might reflect the more rapid adoption of automation technologies in countries undergoing more pronounced demographic changes, and provide evidence and theoretical underpinnings for this argument.

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Labor Reallocation, Employment, and Earnings: Vector Autoregression Evidence

Henry Hyatt & Tucker McElroy

U.S. Census Bureau Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
An increasing number of data sources have measured the components of reallocation of jobs across employers and workers across jobs. Whether and how job reallocation across employers and excess worker "churn" affect other measures of the health of the U.S. economy remains an open question. In this paper, we present time series evidence for the U.S. 1993-2013 and consider the relationship between labor reallocation, employment, and earnings using a vector autoregression (VAR) framework. We find that labor market churn Granger-causes higher employment and lower unemployment, while job destruction does the opposite. We also find more limited evidence that churn and job destruction predict increased earnings, although this is not found for all earnings measures.

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Unemployment Insurance Generosity and Aggregate Employment

Arindrajit Dube et al.

University of Massachusetts Working Paper, December 2016

Abstract:
This paper examines the impact of unemployment insurance (UI) on aggregate employment by exploiting cross-state variation in the maximum benefit duration during the Great Recession. Comparing adjacent counties located in neighboring states, we find no statistically significant impact of increasing UI generosity on aggregate employment. Our point estimates are uniformly small in magnitude, and the most precise estimates rule out employment-to-population ratio reductions in excess of 0.5 percentage points from the UI extension. We show that a moderately sized fiscal multiplier can rationalize our findings with the small negative labor supply impact of UI typically found in the literature.

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Reference Dependent Preferences and Labor Supply in Historical Perspective

Daniel MacDonald & Philip Mellizo

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
To evaluate voluntary labor supply decisions under transitory monthly piece-rate schedules, we draw from a novel dataset on workers who originated from self-sufficient farms in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts, and were recruited into textile mills in eastern Massachusetts in the early 19th century. Where life-cycle models of labor supply predict a positive relationship between labor supply and transitory changes in wages, we instead find negative wage-labor supply elasticities consistent with reference-dependent income targeting. Our findings contribute to the contemporary debate over the empirical validity of competing labor supply models. They also bring into question common modeling conventions in economic history that are used in the construction of historical narratives.

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Social influence in career choice: Evidence from a randomized field experiment on entrepreneurial mentorship

Charles Eesley & Yanbo Wang

Research Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
How do different sources of social influence impact the likelihood of entrepreneurship? We examine this question in the setting of an entrepreneurship class in which students were randomly assigned to receive mentorship from either an entrepreneur or a non-entrepreneur. Using a longitudinal field experiment with a pre-test/post-test design, we find that randomization to an entrepreneur mentor increases the likelihood of entrepreneurial careers, particularly for students whose parents were not entrepreneurs. Additional analysis shows the mentor influences the decision to join an early-stage venture, but not to become a founder. Performance data suggests that entrepreneurial influence is not encouraging "worse" entrepreneurship and may have helped students in joining or founding better-performing ventures. We contribute to the literature on social influence in entrepreneurship by examining the interaction between multiple sources of social influence and by using a randomized field experiment to overcome the endogenous process of tie formation.


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