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The Redistribution Recession: How Labor Market Distortions Contracted the Economy

Author

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  • Mulligan, Casey B.

    (University of Chicago)

Abstract

Since 2007, many fundamental aspects of the economy and the labor market have changed dramatically. With the exception of Medicaid, subsidies flowing to the unemployed and financially distressed households in the forms of loan forgiveness and government transfers almost tripled. The generosity of mean-tested subsidies like food stamps, and employment-tested subsidies like unemployment insurance have steadily increased. Congress considered legislation that would raise marginal income tax rates, and would present Americans with new health benefits that would be phased out as a function of income. Also, a large number of homeowners owed more on their mortgages than their houses were worth, and many in both the private and public sectors renegotiated their mortgage contracts. And many others renegotiated business debts, consumer loans, student loans, and tax debts. Labor economist Casey B. Mulligan argues that because the way these trends have affected the labor market, they deepened, if not caused, the recession. He explains how progressive tax rates and binding minimum-wage laws reduce labor usage, consumption, and investment, and how they increase labor productivity. This means that while a small part of the population actually works more, overall hours worked in the whole economy are less. He explains and examines the pratical ways that for many people during a recession it costs more to earn more, and how people are working less because of it. One newly discovered aspect of the costs on earning is the large portion of the labor force renegotiating debt. Mulligan quantifies how borrowers can expect their earnings to affect the amount that lenders will forgive in debt renegotiation, and how this has acted as a massive implicit tax on earning. He also measures the changes in market tax rates that resulted directly from "social safety net" programs, and quantifies these changes' effects on the labor market and the economy. Mulligan argues that much of the decline in labor usage since 2007 was a reaction to the combination of higher marginal tax rates and a higher federal minimum wage, and that it is important to understand why labor market distortions like these suddenly increased, and to what degree those increases were caused by the various measures enacted to boost the labor market. The Redistribution Recession is a controversial, clear-cut, and thoroughly researched analysis of the effects of various government policies on the labor market during the recent recession. Available in OSO: http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/oso/public/content/economicsfinance/9780199942213/toc.html

Suggested Citation

  • Mulligan, Casey B., 2012. "The Redistribution Recession: How Labor Market Distortions Contracted the Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199942213.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxp:obooks:9780199942213
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Guzi, 2014. "An Empirical Analysis of Welfare Dependence in the Czech Republic," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 64(5), pages 407-431, November.
    2. Peter Ganong & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2013. "The Decline, Rebound, and Further Rise in SNAP Enrollment: Disentangling Business Cycle Fluctuations and Policy Changes," NBER Working Papers 19363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:ejw:journl:v:14:y:2017:i:1:p:121-132 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. David Coble, 2015. "The Labor Wedge: New Facts Based on US Microdata," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 751, Central Bank of Chile.
    5. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2016. "The Masking of the Decline in Manufacturing Employment by the Housing Bubble," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 179-200, Spring.
    6. Marianne Bitler & Hilary Hoynes, 2016. "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? The Safety Net and Poverty in the Great Recession," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S1), pages 403-444.
    7. Bruce D. Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok, 2014. "A Short Review of Recent Evidence on the Disincentive Effects of Unemployment Insurance and New Evidence From New York State," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 67(1), pages 219-252, March.
    8. Benjamin Bridgman, 2016. "Engines of Leisure," BEA Working Papers 0137, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
    9. Reich, Michael & West, Rachel, 2015. "The Effects of Minimum Wages on Food Stamp Enrollment and Expenditures," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt0wh9z8x4, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    10. Jeff Larrimore & Richard V. Burkhauser & Philip Armour, 2013. "Accounting for Income Changes over the Great Recession (2007-2010) Relative to Previous Recessions: The Importance of Taxes and Transfers," NBER Working Papers 19699, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Geert Bekaert & Eric Engstrom & Andrey Ermolov, 2016. "Macro Risks and the Term Structure of Interest Rates," NBER Working Papers 22839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. William D. Dupor, 2013. "Creating jobs via the 2009 recovery act: state medicaid grants compared to broadly-directed spending," Working Papers 2013-035, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    13. repec:bla:coecpo:v:35:y:2017:i:2:p:312-330 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Edward Stringham, 2014. "It’s not me, it’s you: the functioning of Wall Street during the 2008 economic downturn," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 161(3), pages 269-288, December.
    15. Jeehoon Han, 2016. "SNAP Expansions and Participation in Government Safety Net Programs," 2016 Papers pha1139, Job Market Papers.
    16. David Neumark, 2016. "Policy levers to increase jobs and increase income from work after the Great Recession," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-38, December.
    17. repec:eee:macchp:v2-2131 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Daniel Brown & Elisabetta De Cao, 2017. "The Impact of Unemployment on Child Maltreatment in the United States," Economics Series Working Papers 837, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    19. Martin Beraja & Erik Hurst & Juan Ospina, 2016. "The Aggregate Implications of Regional Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 21956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2013. "Housing Booms, Manufacturing Decline, and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 18949, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:4:p:1625-1647 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Hansen, G.D. & Ohanian, L.E., 2016. "Neoclassical Models in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.

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