IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Constraint and opportunity: identifying voluntary non-employment

Listed author(s):
  • Burchardt, Tania
  • Le Grand, Julian
Registered author(s):

    This paper is an attempt to assess the extent to which the behaviour of an individual is the result of the constraints that he or she faces – factors beyond individual control - or the result of the exercise of his or her preferences. The study concentrates on participation or non-participation in employment, with non-participation defined broadly to include fulltime education, caring or early retirement, as well as unemployment. Following a discussion of potential methodological difficulties, data from the British Household Panel Study are used to construct models of the probability of being in employment, controlling for various constraints. Starting from the position that all non-employment is voluntary, possible constraints are introduced in layers corresponding to the degree to which they are regarded as beyond individual control. The layered approach allows for the fact that opinions vary as to what factors it is appropriate to regard as constraints. Predicted probabilities of being in employment are then compared to each individual’s actual state. If the model predicts that he or she has a high probability of being in work, and in fact he or she is not, then there is a prima facie case that she or he is voluntarily out of work. However, since there may be unobserved constraints, the outcome is cross-checked by starting from the opposite position, namely that all non-employment is involuntary, then gradually subtracting those for whom there is evidence of having chosen to be out of work. Only those who are found not to face significant constraints and who state that they do not want work can with confidence be asserted to be voluntarily non-employed. The results suggest that after taking into account as many constraints as possible, one-tenth of the non-employment in our sample is unambiguously voluntary, with a further one-tenth being indeterminate.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 4650.

    in new window

    Length: 36 pages
    Date of creation: Apr 2002
    Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:4650
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    LSE Library Portugal Street London, WC2A 2HD, U.K.

    Phone: +44 (020) 7405 7686
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Nolan, Brian & Whelan, Christopher T., 1996. "Resources, Deprivation, and Poverty," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198287858.
    2. Sen, Amartya, 1995. "Inequality Reexamined," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198289289.
    3. Haveman, Robert & Bershadker, Andrew, 1998. "Self-Reliance as a Poverty Criterion: Trends in Earnings-Capacity Poverty, 1975-1992," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 342-347, May.
    4. Sen, Amartya, 1984. "The Living Standard," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(0), pages 74-90, Supplemen.
    5. Hahn, F H, 1987. "On Involuntary Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(388a), pages 1-16, Supplemen.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:4650. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (LSERO Manager)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.