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Essays on Labor Supply and Adjustment Frictions
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics. Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute for International Economic Studies.
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Labor Supply Responses and Adjustment Frictions: A Tax-Free Year in Iceland

How does labor supply respond to a temporary wage change? To answer this question, I study an unexpected and salient tax reform in Iceland in 1987 that resulted in a year free of labor income taxes, but creating only minimal income effects, offering an ideal natural experiment. I first construct a new employer-employee dataset from digitized administrative records for the population. I then use two complementary research designs to estimate Frisch elasticities. The first design, which is standard, exploits the progressivity of the tax system and identifies an intensive-margin elasticity of 0.4. The second design, which is new, uses similarities in life-patterns of labor supply and identifies an extensive-margin semi-elasticity of 0.07. Guided by a combination of machine learning and causal estimation, I uncover three key mechanisms behind these responses. First, the young and those close to retirement drive the extensive-margin response. Second, workers with temporal flexibility and the hourly paid have substantially higher elasticities than constrained workers. However, constrained workers take up secondary jobs, which contribute 7% of the overall responses. Third, married women are more responsive than their husbands. Husbands, but not wives, respond negatively to their spouses' tax cuts, inconsistent with unitary household models. My results imply that voluntary changes in work are key to the transmission of aggregate shocks, but the responses depend on labor-market and demographic structures.

The Gift of Moving: Intergenerational Consequences of a Mobility Shock

We exploit a volcanic "experiment" to study the costs and benefits of geographic mobility. We show that moving costs (broadly defined) are very large and labor therefore does not flow to locations where it earns the highest returns. In our experiment, a third of the houses in a town were covered by lava. People living in these houses where much more likely to move away permanently. For those younger than 25 years old who were induced to move, the "lava shock" dramatically raised lifetime earnings and education. Yet, the benefits of moving were very unequally distributed within the family: Those older than 25 (the parents) were made slightly worse off by the shock. The large gains from moving for the young are surprising in light of the fact that the town affected by our volcanic experiment was (and is) a relatively high income town. We interpret our findings as evidence of the importance of comparative advantage: the gains to moving may be very large for those badly matched to the location they happened to be born in, even if differences in average income are small.

Time-Dependent or State-Dependent Wage-Setting? Evidence from Periods of Macroeconomic Instability

Administrative data on monthly wages in Iceland during 1998-2010 provide new insight into nominal wage rigidity. Unlike the data used in previous work, ours have a higher frequency, minimal measurement error, and a long sample including a period of substantial macroeconomic instability. We find that the monthly frequency of nominal wage changes is 13 percent. Although nominal wage cuts are rare, their frequency rises following a large macroeconomic shock. Timing of wage changes is both time-dependent and state-dependent: we find evidence of synchronization of adjustment and contracts of fixed duration, but also that inflation and unemployment over the wage spell affect the timing of adjustment.

Household Debt and Monetary Policy: Revealing the Cash-Flow Channel

We examine the effect of monetary policy on household spending when households are indebted and interest rates on outstanding loans are linked to short-term interest rates. Using administrative data on balance sheets and consumption expenditure of Swedish households, we reveal the cash-flow transmission channel of monetary policy. On average, indebted households reduce consumption spending by an additional 0.25-0.35 percentage points in response to a one percentage point increase in the policy rate, relative to a household with no debt. This is true both among households with low and high levels of illiquid wealth, such as homeowners, who hold disproportionally little liquid wealth and display hand-to-mouth behavior when faced with increased interest expenses. We show that these responses are driven by households that have some or a large share of their debt in contracts where interest rates vary with short-term interest rates, such as adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), which implies that monetary policy shocks are quickly passed through to interest expenses.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Economics, Stockholm University , 2019. , p. 427
Series
Monograph series / Institute for International Economic Studies, University of Stockholm, ISSN 0346-6892 ; 101
Keywords [en]
Intertemporal labor supply, Frisch elasticity, Labor supply, Adjustment frictions, Geographic mobility, Moving costs, Comparative advantage, Wage rigidity, Monetary policy, Consumption, Household debt
National Category
Economics
Research subject
Economics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167964ISBN: 978-91-7797-644-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-645-5 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-167964DiVA, id: diva2:1306508
Public defence
2019-06-07, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-05-15 Created: 2019-04-24 Last updated: 2019-05-06Bibliographically approved

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