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Estimating Adjustment Frictions Using Nonlinear Budget Sets: Method and Evidence from the Earnings Test


  • Alexander M. Gelber
  • Damon Jones
  • Daniel W. Sacks


We introduce a method for estimating the cost of adjusting earnings, as well as the earnings elasticity with respect to the net-of-tax share. Our method uses information on bunching in the earnings distribution at convex budget set kinks before and after policy-induced changes in the magnitude of the kinks: the larger is the adjustment cost, the smaller is the absolute change in bunching from before to after the policy change. In the context of the Social Security Earnings Test, our results demonstrate that the short-run impact of changes in the effective marginal tax rate can be substantially attenuated.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander M. Gelber & Damon Jones & Daniel W. Sacks, 2020. "Estimating Adjustment Frictions Using Nonlinear Budget Sets: Method and Evidence from the Earnings Test," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 1-31, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:12:y:2020:i:1:p:1-31
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.20170717

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials


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