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What is Labor Supply and Do Taxes Affect It?

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  • Harvey S. Rosen

Abstract

The issue of tax-induced changes in labor supply behavior has been receiving increasing attention. Economic theory alone can say little about the impact of income taxation on labor supply because of the well- known conflict between income and substitution effects. Therefore, an enormous amount of effort has been devoted to empirical investigation of this problem, with a focus on the impact of taxes on hours of work and labor force participation rates. In Section I of this paper, I briefly discuss this literature and its major conclusions. It has been long understood, however, that the concept "labor supply" is more general than "hours of work." If one individual is healthier, better educated, and more highly motivated than another, then presumably a given number of hours of work will lead to a greater effective labor supply for the former than for the latter. Thus, studies of the effect of taxes on other dimensions of labor supply are needed in order to assess the full impact of taxes on work incentives. The main purpose of this paper is to discuss some of this research (Section II) and to explore its policy implications (Section III).

Suggested Citation

  • Harvey S. Rosen, 1979. "What is Labor Supply and Do Taxes Affect It?," NBER Working Papers 0411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0411
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    1. Willis, Robert J & Rosen, Sherwin, 1979. "Education and Self-Selection," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 7-36, October.
    2. Roger H. Gordon & Alan S. Blinder, 1980. "Market wages, reservation wages, and retirement decisions," NBER Chapters,in: Econometric Studies in Public Finance, pages 277-308 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gronau, Reuben, 1977. "Leisure, Home Production, and Work-The Theory of the Allocation of Time Revisited," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(6), pages 1099-1123, December.
    4. J. E. Stiglitz, 1969. "The Effects of Income, Wealth, and Capital Gains Taxation on Risk-Taking," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(2), pages 263-283.
    5. Burtless, Gary & Hausman, Jerry A, 1978. "The Effect of Taxation on Labor Supply: Evaluating the Gary Negative Income Tax Experiments," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 1103-1130, December.
    6. Stafford, Frank & Duncan, Greg J., 1979. "The Use of Time and Technology by Households in the United States," Working Paper Series 21, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    7. Rosen, Harvey S, 1976. "Taxes in a Labor Supply Model with Joint Wage-Hours Determination," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(3), pages 485-507, May.
    8. Michael J. Boskin, 1975. "Notes on the Tax Treatment of Human Capital," NBER Working Papers 0116, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. R. E. Hall, 1970. "Wages, Income and Hours of Work in the U. S. Labor Force," Working papers 62, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Atallah, Gamal, 1998. "Les impôts sur le revenu et l’offre de travail des femmes mariées : une revue de la littérature," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 74(1), pages 95-128, mars.
    2. Cook, Philip J. & Moore, Michael J., 2000. "Alcohol," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 30, pages 1629-1673 Elsevier.
    3. Bovenberg, A. Lans & van Ewijk, Casper, 1997. "Progressive taxes, equity, and human capital accumulation in an endogenous growth model with overlapping generations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 153-179, May.
    4. Fullerton, Don & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 2002. "Cap and trade policies in the presence of monopoly and distortionary taxation," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 327-347, November.
    5. Charles E. McLure, Jr., 1980. "Taxes, Saving, and Welfare: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 0504, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Fullerton, Don & Metcalf, Gilbert E., 2001. "Environmental controls, scarcity rents, and pre-existing distortions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 249-267, May.
    7. Frank Stafford, 1985. "Income-Maintenance Policy and Work Effort: Learning from Experiments and Labor-Market Studies," NBER Chapters,in: Social Experimentation, pages 95-144 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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