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Aggregate labor supply

  • Johanna Wallenius
  • Edward C. Prescott

There have been tremendous advances in macroeconomics, following the introduction of labor supply into the field. Today it is widely acknowledged that labor supply matters for many key economic issues, particularly for business cycles and tax policy analysis. However, the extent to which labor supply matters for such questions depends on the aggregate labor supply elasticity—that is, the sensitivity of the time allocation between market and non-market activities to changes in the effective wage. The magnitude of the aggregate labor supply elasticity has been the subject of much debate for several decades. In this paper we review this debate and conclude that the elasticity of labor supply of the aggregate household is much higher than the elasticity of the identical households being aggregated. The aggregate household utility function differs from individuals’ utility functions for the same reason the aggregate production function differs from individual firms’ production functions being aggregated. The differences in individual and aggregate supply elasticities are what aggregation theory predicts.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 457.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:457
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  1. Lee E. Ohanian & Andrea Raffo & Richard Rogerson, 2006. "Long-term changes in labor supply and taxes: evidence from OECD countries, 1956-2004," Research Working Paper RWP 06-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
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  4. Edward C. Prescott & Richard Rogerson & Johanna Wallenius, 2009. "Lifetime Aggregate Labor Supply with Endogenous Workweek Length," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(1), pages 23-36, January.
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  12. Johanna Wallenius & Richard Rogerson, 2011. "Fixed Costs, Retirement and the Elasticity of Labor Supply," 2011 Meeting Papers 250, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Richard Rogerson, 2007. "Taxation and Market Work: Is Scandinavia an Outlier?," NBER Working Papers 12890, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Selahattin Imrohoroglu & Sagiri Kitao, 2009. "Labor Supply Elasticity and Social Security Reform," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2009-5, Center for Retirement Research, revised Mar 2009.
  18. Nezih Guner & Remzi Kaygusuz & Gustavo Ventura, 2012. "Taxation and Household Labour Supply," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(3), pages 1113-1149.
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