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Econometric Studies of Labor-Labor Substitution and Their Implications for Policy


  • Daniel S. Hamermesh
  • James Grant


A critical synthesis of the rapidly growing literature on substitution among labor force aggregates is presented. Despite the large number of studies now available, the only firm conclusions are: (1) Physical and human capital are complements and are jointly substitutable with raw labor. This has implications for policies that subsidize the wage costs of low-wage workers. (2) Young workers' own-wage elasticity of demand exceeds unity, but the degree to which they are substitutes for older workers is unclear. The paper suggests that future research should concentrate on substitution among workers disaggregated by age, education, or sex rather than by the blue-collar-white-collar distinction used in most work and that has little use in policy analysis.

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  • Daniel S. Hamermesh & James Grant, 1979. "Econometric Studies of Labor-Labor Substitution and Their Implications for Policy," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(4), pages 543-562.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:14:y:1979:i:4:p:543-562

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard V. Burkhauser, 1979. "The Pension Acceptance Decision of Older Workers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(1), pages 63-75.
    2. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-88-28 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Steven G. Allen & Robert L. Clark & Daniel A. Sumner, 1986. "Postretirement Adjustments of Pension Benefits," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(1), pages 118-137.
    4. Phillip B. Levine & Olivia S. Mitchell, 1988. "The Baby Boom's Legacy: Relative Wages in the 21st Century," NBER Working Papers 2501, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven, 1983. "Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi83-1, January.
    6. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-1284, December.
    7. Stock, James H & Wise, David A, 1990. "Pensions, the Option Value of Work, and Retirement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1151-1180, September.
    8. Hutchens, Robert, 1986. "Delayed Payment Contracts and a Firm's Propensity to Hire Older Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(4), pages 439-457, October.
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