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Climate Policy and Labor Markets

In: The Design and Implementation of U.S. Climate Policy


  • Olivier Deschênes


An important component of the debate surrounding climate legislation in the United States is its potential impact on labor markets. Theoretically the connection is ambiguous and depends on the sign of cross-elasticity of labor demand with respect to energy prices, which is a priori unknown. This paper provides some new evidence on this question by estimating the relationship between real electricity prices and indicators of labor market activity using data for 1976-2007. A key contribution of this analysis is that it relies on within-state variation in electricity prices to identify the models and considers all sectors of the U.S. economy rather than focusing only on the manufacturing sector. The main finding is that employment rates are weakly related to electricity prices with implied cross elasticity of full-time equivalent (FTE) employment with respect to electricity prices ranging from -0.16% to -0.10%. I conclude by interpreting these empirical estimates in the context of increases in electricity prices consistent with H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The preferred estimates in this paper suggest that in the short-run, an increase in electricity price of 4% would lead to a reduction in aggregate FTE employment of about 460,000 or 0.6%.
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Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Deschênes, 2011. "Climate Policy and Labor Markets," NBER Chapters,in: The Design and Implementation of U.S. Climate Policy, pages 37-49 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12150

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Feng, Hongli & Kling, Catherine L. & Gassman, Philip W., 2004. "Carbon Sequestration, Co-Benefits, and Conservation Programs," Choices, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 19(3).
    2. Stephen P. Holland & Erin T. Mansur, 2008. "Is Real-Time Pricing Green? The Environmental Impacts of Electricity Demand Variance," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 550-561, August.
    3. Burtraw, Dallas & Krupnick, Alan & Palmer, Karen & Paul, Anthony & Toman, Michael & Bloyd, Cary, 2003. "Ancillary benefits of reduced air pollution in the US from moderate greenhouse gas mitigation policies in the electricity sector," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 650-673, May.
    4. Britt Groosman & Nicholas Muller & Erin O’Neill-Toy, 2011. "The Ancillary Benefits from Climate Policy in the United States," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 50(4), pages 585-603, December.
    5. Andrew J. Plantinga & JunJie Wu, 2003. "Co-Benefits from Carbon Sequestration in Forests: Evaluating Reductions in Agricultural Externalities from an Afforestation Policy in Wisconsin," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 79(1), pages 74-85.
    6. Steven L. Puller, 2007. "Pricing and Firm Conduct in California's Deregulated Electricity Market," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 75-87, February.
    7. Schneider, Uwe A. & Kumar, Pushpam, 2008. "Greenhouse Gas Mitigation through Agriculture," Choices, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 23(1).
    8. Stephen P. Holland, 2010. "Spillovers from Climate Policy," NBER Working Papers 16158, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Sébastien Dessus & David O'Connor, 2003. "Climate Policy without Tears CGE-Based Ancillary Benefits Estimates for Chile," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 25(3), pages 287-317, July.
    10. Stephen P. Holland, 2009. "Taxes and Trading versus Intensity Standards: Second-Best Environmental Policies with Incomplete Regulation (Leakage) or Market Power," NBER Working Papers 15262, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Michael Greenstone, 2003. "Estimating Regulation-Induced Substitution: The Effect of the Clean Air Act on Water and Ground Pollution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 442-448, May.
    12. Elbakidze, Levan & McCarl, Bruce A., 2004. "Should We Consider the Co-Benefits of Agricultural GHG Offsets?," Choices, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 19(3).
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    Cited by:

    1. Cox, Michael & Peichl, Andreas & Pestel, Nico & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2014. "Labor demand effects of rising electricity prices: Evidence for Germany," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 266-277.
    2. Don Fullerton, 2010. "Six Distributional Effects of Environmental Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 3299, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Zhu, Junming & Ruth, Matthias, 2015. "Relocation or reallocation: Impacts of differentiated energy saving regulation on manufacturing industries in China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 119-133.
    4. Matthew E. Kahn & Erin T. Mansur, 2010. "How Do Energy Prices, and Labor and Environmental Regulations Affect Local Manufacturing Employment Dynamics? A Regression Discontinuity Approach," NBER Working Papers 16538, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General


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