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The Marginal Worker and The Aggregate Elasticity of Labor Supply

  • François Gourio

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Boston University)

  • Pierre-Alexandre Noual

    ()

    (University of Chicago.)

This paper attempts to reconcile the high apparent aggregate elasticity of labor supply with small micro estimates. We elaborate on Rogerson’s seminal work (1988) and show that his results rely neither on complete markets nor on lotteries, but rather on the indivisibility of labor supply and the marginal homogeneity of the workforce. We derive two robust implications of a setup with indivisible labor but without lotteries, using either a complete markets model or an incomplete markets model. Implication (1) is that agents with reservation wages far above or below the market wage are less responsive (in labor supply) to the business cycle than agents whose reservation wage is around the market wage. Implication (2) is that the aggregate elasticity is given by the marginal homogeneity of the workforce. We test implication (1) using the PSID and find support for it. We build an incomplete market model and calibrate it to cross-sectional moments of hours worked. We show that it can reproduce the feature (1). This allows us to use the model to evaluate the importance of feature (2), i.e. to estimate the aggregate elasticity of labor supply implied by the marginal homogeneity.

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Paper provided by Boston University - Department of Economics in its series Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number WP2006-009.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bos:wpaper:wp2006-009
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  1. Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Indivisible labor, lotteries and equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 3-16, January.
  2. David K. Levine & William R. Zame, 2002. "Does Market Incompleteness Matter?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1805-1839, September.
  3. Yongsung Chang & Sun-Bin Kim, 2006. "From Individual To Aggregate Labor Supply: A Quantitative Analysis Based On A Heterogeneous Agent Macroeconomy ," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(1), pages 1-27, 02.
  4. Robert Shimer, 2012. "Reassessing the Ins and Outs of Unemployment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(2), pages 127-148, April.
  5. Gary Hansen, 2010. "Indivisible Labor and the Business Cycle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 233, David K. Levine.
  6. Heckman, James J, 1993. "What Has Been Learned about Labor Supply in the Past Twenty Years?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 116-21, May.
  7. Casey B. Mulligan, 2001. "Aggregate Implications of Indivisible Labor," NBER Working Papers 8159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Aiyagari, S Rao, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-84, August.
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