Skilled Tradable Services: The Transformation of U.S. High-Skill Labor Markets
We study a group of service industries that are skill-intensive, widely traded, and have recently seen explosive wage growth. Between 1980 and 2015, these ?Skilled Tradable Services? accounted for a sharply increasing share of employment among the highest earning Americans. Unlike any other sector, their wage growth was strongly biased toward the densest local labor markets and the highest paying firms. These services alone explain 30% of the increase in inequality between the 50th and 90th percentiles of the wage distribution. We offer an explanation for these patterns that highlights the complementarity between the non-rivalry of knowledge and changes in communication costs.
AUTHORS: Eckert, Fabian; Ganapati, Sharat; Walsh, Conor
The Lost Ones: The Opportunities and Outcomes of Non-College-Educated Americans Born in the 1960s
White, non-college-educated Americans born in the 1960s face shorter life expectancies, higher medical expenses, and lower wages per unit of human capital compared with those born in the 1940s, and men's wages declined more than women's. After documenting these changes, we use a life-cycle model of couples and singles to evaluate their effects. The drop in wages depressed the labor supply of men and increased that of women, especially in married couples. Their shorter life expectancy reduced their retirement savings but the increase in out-of-pocket medical expenses increased them by more. Welfare losses, measured as a one-time asset compensation, are 12.5%, 8%, and 7.2% of the present discounted value of earnings for single men, couples, and single women, respectively. Lower wages explain 47-58% of these losses, shorter life expectancies 25-34%, and higher medical expenses account for the rest.
AUTHORS: Borella, Margherita; De Nardi, Mariacristina; Yang, Fang
Optimal Social Insurance and Rising Labor Market Risk
This paper analyzes the optimal response of the social insurance system to a rise in labor market risk. To this end, we develop a tractable macroeconomic model with risk-free physical capital, risky human capital (labor market risk) and unobservable effort choice affecting the distribution of human capital shocks (moral hazard). We show that constrained optimal allocations are simple in the sense that they can be found by solving a static social planner problem. We further show that constrained optimal allocations are the equilibrium allocations of a market economy in which the government uses taxes and transfers that are linear in household wealth/income. We use the tractability result to show that an increase in labor market (human capital) risk increases social welfare if the government adjusts the tax-and-transfer system optimally. Finally, we provide a quantitative analysis of the secular rise in job displacement risk in the US and find that the welfare cost of not adjusting the social insurance system optimally can be substantial.
AUTHORS: Krebs, Tom; Scheffel, Martin
The Return to Big City Experience: Evidence from Danish Refugees
We offer causal evidence of higher returns to experience in big cities. Exploiting a natural experiment that settled political refugees across labor markets in Denmark between 1986 and 1998, we find that while refugees initially earn similar wages across locations, those placed in Copenhagen exhibit 35% faster wage growth with each additional year of experience. This gap is driven primarily by differential sorting towards high-wage establishments, occupations, and industries. An estimated spatial model of earnings dynamics attributes an important role to unobserved worker ability: more able refugees transition to more productive establishments faster in Copenhagen than in other cities.
AUTHORS: Eckert, Fabian; Hejlesen, Mads; Walsh, Conor
Who is a Passive Saver Under Opt-In and Auto-Enrollment?
Defaults have been shown to have a powerful effect on retirement saving behavior yet there is limited research on who is most affected by defaults and whether this varies based on features of the choice environment. Using administrative data on employer-sponsored retirement accounts linked to survey data, we estimate the relationship between retirement saving choices and individual characteristics ? long-term discounting, present bias, financial literacy, and exponential-growth bias ? under two distinct choice environments: an opt-in regime and an auto-enrollment regime. Consistent with our conceptual model, we find that the determinants of following the default and contribution behavior are regime-specific. Under the opt-in regime, financial literacy plays an important role in predicting total contributions, active saving choices, and maxing out contributions in the tax-preferred account. In contrast, under the auto-enrollment regime, present bias is the most significant behavioral predictor of contribution behavior. A causal interpretation of the estimates suggests that auto-enrollment increases saving primarily among those with low financial literacy.
AUTHORS: Goda, Gopi Shah; Levy, Matthew R.; Flaherty Manchester, Colleen; Sojourner, Aaron; Tasoff, Joshua
Nonlinear Pricing in Village Economies
This paper examines the price of basic staples in rural Mexico. We document that nonlinear pricing in the form of quantity discounts is common, that quantity discounts are sizable for typical staples, and that the well-known conditional cash transfer program Progresa has significantly increased quantity discounts, although the program, as documented in previous studies, has not affected on average unit prices. To account for these patterns, we propose a model of price discrimination that nests those of Maskin and Riley (1984) and Jullien (2000), in which consumers differ in their tastes and, because of subsistence constraints, in their ability to pay for a good. We show that under mild conditions, a model in which consumers face heterogeneous subsistence or budget constraints is equivalent to one in which consumers have access to heterogeneous outside options. We rely on known results (Jullien (2000)) to characterize the equilibrium price schedule, which is nonlinear in quantity. We analyze the effect of nonlinear pricing on market participation as well as the impact of a market-wide transfer, analogous to the Progresa one, when consumers are differentially constrained. We show that the model is structurally identified from data on prices and quantities from a single market under common assumptions. We estimate the model using data from municipalities and localities in Mexico on three commonly consumed commodities. Interestingly, we find that nonlinear pricing is beneficial to a large number of households, including those consuming small quantities, relative to linear pricing mostly because of the higher degree of market participation that nonlinear pricing induces. We also show that the Progresa transfer has affected the slopes of the price schedules of the three commodities we study, which have become steeper as consistent with our model, leading to an increase in the intensity of price discrimination. Finally, we show that a reduced form of our model, in which the size of quantity discounts depends on the hazard rate of the distribution of quantities purchased in a village, accounts for the shift in price schedules induced by the program.
AUTHORS: Attanasio, Orazio; Pastorino, Elena
Cyclical Labor Income Risk
We investigate cyclicality of variance and skewness of household labor income risk using PSID data. There are five main findings. First, we find that head's labor income exhibits countercyclical variance and procyclical skewness. Second, the cyclicality of hourly wages is mutted, suggesting that head's labor income risk is mainly coming from the volatility of hours. Third, younger households face stronger cyclicality of income volatility than older ones, although the level of volatility is lower for the younger ones. Fourth, while a second earner helps lower the level of skewness, it does not mitigate the volatility of household labor income risk. Meanwhile, government taxes and transfers are found to mitigate the level and cyclicality of labor income risk volatility. Finally, among heads with strong labor market attachment, the cyclicality of labor income volatility becomes weaker, while the cyclicality of skewness remains.
AUTHORS: Nakajima, Makoto; Smirnyagin, Vladimir
Medical Expenses and Saving in Retirement: The Case of U.S. and Sweden
Many U.S. households have significant wealth late in life, contrary to the predictions of a simple life-cycle model. In this paper, we document stark differences between U.S. and Sweden regarding out-of-pocket medical and long-term-care expenses late in life, and use them to investigate their role in discouraging the elderly from dissaving. Using a consumption-saving model in retirement with significant uninsurable expense risk, we find that medical expense risk accounts for a quarter of the U.S.-Sweden difference in retirees' dissaving patterns. Furthermore, medical expense risk affects primarily financial assets, while its impact on housing is limited.
AUTHORS: Nakajima, Makoto; Telyukova, Irina A.
The Environmental Cost of Land Use Restrictions
Cities with cleaner power plants and lower energy demand have stricter land use restrictions; these restrictions increase housing prices and disincentivize living in these lower polluting cities. We use a spatial equilibrium model to quantify the effect of land use restrictions on household carbon emissions. Our model features heterogeneous households, cities that vary by power plant technology and the benefits of energy usage, as well as endogenous wages and rents. Relaxing restrictions in California to the national median leads to a 2.3% drop in national carbon emissions. The burden of a carbon tax differs substantially across locations.
AUTHORS: Colas, Mark; Morehouse, John M.
Pay, Employment, and Dynamics of Young Firms
Why do young firms pay less? Using confidential microdata from the US Census Bureau, we find lower earnings among workers at young firms. However, we argue that such measurement is likely subject to worker and firm selection. Exploiting the two-sided panel nature of the data to control for relevant dimensions of worker and firm heterogeneity, we uncover a positive and significant young-firm pay premium. Furthermore, we show that worker selection at firm birth is related to future firm dynamics, including survival and growth. We tie our empirical findings to a simple model of pay, employment, and dynamics of young firms.
AUTHORS: Babina, Tania; Ma, Wenting; Moser, Christian; Ouimet, Paige P.; Zarutskie, Rebecca