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Do Workers Work More if Wages are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment

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  • Ernst Fehr
  • Lorenz Götte

Abstract

Abstract: Most previous studies on intertemporal labor supply found very small or insignificant substitution effects. It is not clear, however, whether these results are due to institutional constraints on workers’ labor supply choices or whether the behavioral assumptions of the standard life cycle model with time separable preferences are empirically invalid. We conducted a randomized field experiment in a setting in which workers were free to choose their working times and their efforts during working time. We document a large positive wage elasticity of overall labor supply and an even larger wage elasticity of labor hours, which implies that the wage elasticity of effort per hour is negative. While the standard life cycle model cannot explain the negative effort elasticity, we show that a modified neoclassical model with preference spillovers across periods and a model with reference dependent, loss averse preferences are consistent with the evidence. With the help of a further experiment we can show that only loss averse individuals exhibit a significantly negative effort response to the wage increase and that the degree of loss aversion predicts the size of the negative effort response.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 125.

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Date of creation: Sep 2005
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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:125

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Keywords: Labor Supply; Extensive and Intensive Margin; Loss Aversion; Field Experiment;

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  1. Shulamit Kahn & Kevin Lang, 1988. "The Effects of Hours Constraints on Labor Supply Estimates," NBER Working Papers 2647, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  18. Götte, Lorenz & Huffman, David B., 2005. "Affect as a Source of Motivation in the Workplace: A New Model of Labor Supply, and New Field Evidence on Income Targeting and the Goal Gradient," IZA Discussion Papers 1890, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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