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Unemployment Risk and Compensating Differential in Late-Nineteenth Century New Jersey Manufacturing

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  • Susan Averett
  • Howard Bodenhorn
  • Justas Staisiunas

Abstract

In this paper we test for the existence of compensating differentials for unemployment risk in an era before unemployment insurance. Using information gathered from manufacturing worker surveys conducted during the 1880s in New Jersey, we find that workers who faced higher probabilities of predictable unemployment spells received a small compensating differential. Low-skill laborers and operatives were partially compensated for unemployment risks; skilled craftsmen were not. Although workers were not fully compensated for the unemployment risks they accepted, the results are of interest because most previous writers, dating back to Adam Smith, doubted the existence of compensating differentials in manufacturing. Differentials are typically believed to arise in employments with pronounced seasonal components, such as agriculture and construction.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9977.

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Date of creation: Sep 2003
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Publication status: published as Averett, Susan, Howard Bodenhorn and Justas Staisiunas. "Unemployment Risk And Compensating Differentials In New Jersey Manufacturing," Economic Inquiry, 2005, v43(4,Oct), 734-749.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9977

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  1. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Productivity in Manufacturing and the Length of the Working Day: Evidence from the 1880 Census of Manufactures," Macroeconomics 0012003, EconWPA.
  2. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2001. "Part-Year Operation in Nineteenth Century American Manufacturing: Evidence from the 1870 and 1880 Censuses," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0106, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics, revised Mar 2001.
  3. Price V. Fishback, 1998. "Operations of "Unfettered" Labor Markets: Exit and Voice in American Labor Markets at the Turn of the Century," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 722-765, June.
  4. Hatton, Timothy J. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1991. "Unemployment, employment contracts, and compensating wage differentials: michigan in the 1890s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(03), pages 605-632, September.
  5. James, John A, 1995. "Reconstructing the Pattern of American Unemployment before the First World War," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 62(247), pages 291-311, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Finnoff, David & Tschirhart, John, 2008. "Linking dynamic economic and ecological general equilibrium models," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 91-114, May.

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