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Labor Drops: Experimental Evidence on the Return to Additional Labor in Microenterprises

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  • Suresh de Mel
  • David McKenzie
  • Christopher Woodruff

Abstract

A field experiment in Sri Lanka provided wage subsidies to randomly chosen microenterprises to test whether hiring additional labor benefits such firms, and whether a short-term subsidy can have a lasting impact on firm employment. Using 12 rounds of surveys to track dynamics four years after treatment, we find that firms increased employment during the subsidy period. Treated firms were more likely to survive, but there was no lasting impact on employment, and no effect on profitability or sales either during or after the subsidy period. There is some heterogeneity in effects; the subsidies have more durable effect on manufacturers.

Suggested Citation

  • Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2019. "Labor Drops: Experimental Evidence on the Return to Additional Labor in Microenterprises," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 202-235, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:11:y:2019:i:1:p:202-35
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.20170497
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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