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Does risk matter for occupational choices? Experimental evidence from an African labour market

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  • Falco, Paolo

Abstract

This paper investigates the role of risk-aversion in the allocation of workers between formal and informal jobs in Ghana. In the model I propose, risk-averse workers can opt between the free-entry informal sector and queuing for formal occupations. Conditional on identifying the riskier option, the model yields testable implications on the relationship between risk-preferences and workers' allocation. My testing strategy proceeds in two steps. First, I estimate expected income uncertainty through panel data and find it to be higher in the informal sector. Second, using novel experimental data to elicit individual attitudes to risk, I estimate the direct effect of risk-aversion on occupational choices and find that, in line with the first result, more risk-averse workers are more likely to queue for formal jobs and less likely to be in the informal sector. The results bear important implications for the optimal design of employment policies and social security.

Suggested Citation

  • Falco, Paolo, 2014. "Does risk matter for occupational choices? Experimental evidence from an African labour market," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 96-109.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:28:y:2014:i:c:p:96-109
    DOI: 10.1016/j.labeco.2014.03.005
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2004. "Income Variance Dynamics and Heterogeneity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 1-32, January.
    2. Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Cross-sectional earnings risk and occupational sorting: The role of risk attitudes," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 926-937, December.
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    6. Falco, Paolo & Kerr, Andrew & Rankin, Neil & Sandefur, Justin & Teal, Francis, 2011. "The returns to formality and informality in urban Africa," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(S1), pages 23-31.
    7. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1993. "Occupational Choice and the Process of Development," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 274-298, April.
    8. Fields,Gary S., 2005. "A guide to multisector labor market models," Policy Research Working Paper Series 32547, The World Bank.
    9. McKenzie, David J & Woodruff, Christopher, 2006. "Do Entry Costs Provide an Empirical Basis for Poverty Traps? Evidence from Mexican Microenterprises," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 3-42, October.
    10. Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2009. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 423-423.
    11. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1979. "A General Equilibrium Entrepreneurial Theory of Firm Formation Based on Risk Aversion," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(4), pages 719-748, August.
    12. Dercon, Stefan, 1998. "Wealth, risk and activity choice: cattle in Western Tanzania," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 1-42, February.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Strobl, Renate & Wunsch, Conny, 2018. "Risky Choices and Solidarity: Why Experimental Design Matters," Working papers 2018/17, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    2. Başbay, Mustafa Metin & Elgin, Ceyhun & Torul, Orhan, 2018. "Socio-demographics, political attitudes and informal sector employment: A cross-country analysis," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 556-568.
    3. van Huizen, Thomas & Alessie, Rob, 2019. "Risk aversion and job mobility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 91-106.
    4. T.M. van Huizen & Rob Alessie, 2016. "Risk Aversion and Job Mobility," Working Papers 16-09, Utrecht School of Economics.
    5. F. T. T. Phua, 2017. "Does the built-environment industry attract risk-taking individuals?," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(4), pages 207-217, April.
    6. Andy McKay & Jukka Pirttilä & Caroline Schimanski, 2019. "The tax elasticity of formal work in African countries," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2019-69, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    7. Strobl, Renate & Wunsch, Conny, 2017. "Does Voluntary Risk Taking Affect Solidarity? Experimental Evidence from Kenya," IZA Discussion Papers 10906, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Falco, Paolo & Haywood, Luke, 2016. "Entrepreneurship versus joblessness: Explaining the rise in self-employment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 245-265.
    9. Jonathan Lain, 2019. "Discrimination in a search and matching model with self-employment," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 9(1), pages 1-35, December.
    10. Jamelia Harris, 2019. "Occupational choice of skilled workers in the presence of a large development sector: Evidence from Sierra Leone," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2019-101, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Sector allocation; Occupational choices; Risk-aversion; Informality; African labour markets;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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