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

Listed author(s):
  • Paolo Falco

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 significantly 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.

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File URL: http://www.csae.ox.ac.uk/workingpapers/pdfs/csae-wps-2013-15.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford in its series CSAE Working Paper Series with number 2013-15.

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Date of creation: 2013
Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2013-15
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  1. Gary S. Becker, 1962. "Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 1-9.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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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