Isabel Z. Martínez, Michael Siegenthaler, Emmanuel Saez, 22 August 2018

Macroeconomists tend to assume that people work more when their wages are temporarily higher, and that this is a key driver of employment fluctuations. This column examines how income tax holidays in Swiss cantons, which exempted earnings from income taxation for one or two years, affected the labour supply of Swiss workers.  People did not work more during the tax holiday, but the self-employed and high earners shifted earnings into the tax holiday years. The findings suggest that intertemporal labour supply responses are too small to be a key explanation why recessions lead to large falls in employment.

Sarra Ben Yahmed, Pamela Bombarda, 24 June 2018

Trade liberalisation has been shown to affect formality rates in labour markets. This column exploits the Mexican trade liberalisation episode in the 1990s, to explore the labour market impact of reductions in import tariffs across gender and sectors. Within disaggregated tradable sectors, the probability of working formally has increased for both men and women in Mexico. Considering regional adjustments,exposure to trade liberalisation has had different effects across genders and tradable versus non-tradable sectors.

Gaetano Basso, Giovanni Peri, Ahmed Rahman, 12 January 2018

The US and Europe have both seen wage polarisation in the last three decades, in parallel with increasing technical automation. This column analyses the impact of immigration on this wage divergence via its effect on the labour supply side. It finds that immigration partially reverses natives’ polarisation of employment opportunities and wages by expanding aggregate demand and allowing natives to move to better paying occupations. Policies to reduce low-skilled migration with the aim of favouring native middle-class labour market opportunities may in fact do the opposite.

Julia Bredtmann, Sebastian Otten, Christian Rulff, 21 December 2017

Little is known about how unemployment shocks are absorbed within the household. This column uses longitudinal micro data for 28 European countries to investigate the effect of husbands’ job loss on wives’ labour supply. Overall, there is evidence that women increase their labour supply in response to their husband losing a job. However, the response varies over both the business cycle and across different welfare regimes.

Cheti Nicoletti, Kjell G. Salvanes, Emma Tominey, 10 December 2017

Developed countries have seen substantial increases in the number of women who return to work after having a child. This is due to a host of well-researched factors, including tax credit incentives and increased availability of child care. This column analyses another factor determining mothers’ labour supply – the peer effects of women in their family. It finds that for each hour worked by a family member, women work up 30 minutes a week purely due to the peer effect. This finding is important for determining the direct and indirect effectiveness of policies encouraging women to work after having children.

Rachel Baker, Eric Bettinger, Brian A. Jacob, Ioana Marinescu, 11 May 2017

As low- and middle-skill jobs disappear from the labour market, a major policy objective is to help students gear their education towards higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs. This column examines how aware US college students are of differing salaries and job prospects, and how they influence the choice of degree major. Earning potential and job prospects appear less important than enjoyment of and proficiency in a subject, possibly reflecting that students feel underinformed about the salaries and job status of alumni from their college.

Timo Boppart, Per Krusell, 21 May 2016

The rise of automation and, more generally, IT-driven structural change in the labour market have made policymakers and researchers worry about ‘disappearing jobs’ and a dire future for employment. This column examines data from several countries to get a long-term view of labour supply. To the extent that productivity improvements continue, hours worked will indeed likely fall. But this will not necessarily be a bad thing and jobs will not necessarily disappear.

David Cesarini, Erik Lindqvist, Matthew Notowidigdo, Robert Östling, 24 January 2016

Cash welfare programmes are widely thought to discourage work because unearned income reduces the labour supply even when it does not alter work incentives. This column discusses recent evidence from Swedish lottery players suggesting that this ‘income effect’ is economically significant, but modest in magnitude and surprisingly similar across various demographic groups. Introducing ‘unconditional basic income’ programmes in developed countries may reduce the labour supply across a broad cross-section of the population.

Matteo Picchio, Sigrid Suetens, Jan van Ours, 06 December 2015

The impact of wage and income shocks on labour supply is difficult to measure. Some studies therefore use lottery prizes as an exogenous shock on income. This column looks at the effect of the size of the prize won on employment status and salaried earnings, using data from Dutch lotteries. The findings show that lottery prizes lead to a reduction of working hours but not to a decrease in the employment rate.

Charles Manski, 23 August 2012

Does a high income tax rate cause people to work less, work more, or continue unaffected? This is a question that divides politicians and the public. And, according to this column, it is also a question that economists do not know the answer to. It is time to say so.

Dale Jorgenson, 08 August 2008

Dale Jorgenson of Harvard University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his projections for the growth of the US economy over the next 10 to 25 years, focusing particularly on the impact of information technology and labour supply. The interview was recorded at the American Economic Association meetings in New Orleans in January 2008.

Alberto Alesina, Andrea Ichino, Loukas Karabarbounis, 09 January 2008

Women have a more elastic labor supply than men and participate less in the market because of intra-family bargaining. Their labor income should be taxed less to achieve optimal taxation and to change the allocation of family chores in a way that allows females to work more in the market if they want. This tax approach may be fiscally cheaper, less distortionary and would directly address the source of labor market gender differences: intra-family bargaining.

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