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

  • Ernst Fehr
  • Lorenz Goette

Most previous studies on intertemporal labor supply found very small or insignificant substitution effects. It is possible that these results are due to constraints on workers' labor supply choices. We conducted a field experiment in a setting in which workers were free to choose hours worked and effort per hour. We document a large positive elasticity of overall labor supply and an even larger elasticity of hours, which implies that the elasticity of effort per hour is negative. We examine two candidate models to explain these findings: a modified neoclassical model with preference spillovers across periods, and a model with reference dependent, lossaverse preferences. With the help of a further experiment, we can show that only loss-averse individuals exhibit a negative effort response to the wage increase. (JEL J22, J31)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 97 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 298-317

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:1:p:298-317
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.1.298
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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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