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Sick of Taxes? Evidence on the Elasticity of Labor Supply when Workers Are Free to Choose

  • Martin Ljunge

    (University of Copenhagen and SITE)

I estimate a price elasticity of sickness absence. Sick leave is an intensive margin of labor supply where individuals are free to adjust. I exploit variation in tax rates over two decades, which provide thousands of differential incentives across time and space, to estimate the price responsiveness. High taxes provide an incentive to take more sick leave, as less after tax income is lost when taxes are high. The panel data, which is representative of the Swedish population, allow for extensive controls including unobserved individual characteristics. I find a substantial price elasticity of sick leave, -0.7, with respect to the net of tax rate. Though large relative to traditional labor supply elasticities, Swedes are half as price elastic as bike messengers, and just as elastic as stadium vendors on the margin which they can adjust freely.

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Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 11-27.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: 18 Oct 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:1127
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  1. Nicolas R. Ziebarth & Martin Karlsson, 2009. "A Natural Experiment on Sick Pay Cuts, Sickness Absence, and Labor Costs," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 244, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
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  4. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Götte, 2005. "Do Workers Work More if Wages are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 125, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Gerald S. Oettinger, 1999. "An Empirical Analysis of the Daily Labor Supply of Stadium Vendors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 360-392, April.
  6. Bound, John & Burkhauser, Richard V., 1999. "Economic analysis of transfer programs targeted on people with disabilities," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 51, pages 3417-3528 Elsevier.
  7. Vincent P Crawford & Juanjuan Meng, 2008. "New York City Cabdrivers’ Labor Supply Revisited: Reference-Dependent Preferences with Rational-Expectations Targets for Hours and Income," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002281, David K. Levine.
  8. Barmby, Tim A. & Ercolani, Marco G. & Treble, John G., 2000. "Sickness Absence: An International Comparison," IRISS Working Paper Series 2000-03, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  9. Per Pettersson-Lidbom & Peter Skogman Thoursie, 2013. "Temporary Disability Insurance and Labor Supply: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 115(2), pages 485-507, 04.
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  12. Chen, Susan & van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2008. "The work disincentive effects of the disability insurance program in the 1990s," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 757-784, February.
  13. Henrekson, Magnus & Persson, Mats, 2001. "The Effects on Sick Leave of Changes in the Sickness Insurance System," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 0444, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 08 Aug 2001.
  14. Johansson, Per & Palme, Marten, 1996. "Do economic incentives affect work absence? Empirical evidence using Swedish micro data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 195-218, February.
  15. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  16. Shulamit Kahn & Kevin Lang, 1988. "The Effects of Hours Constraints on Labor Supply Estimates," NBER Working Papers 2647, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Patrick Puhani & Katja Sonderhof, 2009. "The Effects of a Sick Pay Reform on Absence and on Health-Related Outcomes," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2009 2009-34, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  18. Martin Ljunge, 2011. "The Spirit of the Welfare State? Adaptation in the Demand for Social Insurance," Discussion Papers 11-30, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  19. Per Johansson & Mårten Palme, 2002. "Assessing the Effect of Public Policy on Worker Absenteeism," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(2), pages 381-409.
  20. Johansson, Per & Palme, Marten, 2005. "Moral hazard and sickness insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(9-10), pages 1879-1890, September.
  21. William P. Curington, 1994. "Compensation for Permanent Impairment and the Duration of Work Absence: Evidence from Four Natural Experiments," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(3), pages 888-910.
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