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Salary or Benefits?

  • Paul Oyer

Employer-provided benefits are a large and growing share of compensation costs. In this paper, I consider three factors that can affect the value created by employer-sponsored benefits. First, firms have a comparative advantage (for example, due to scale economies or tax treatment) in purchasing relative to employees. This advantage can vary across firms based on size and other differences in cost structure. Second, employees differ in their valuations of benefits and it is costly for workers to match with firms that offer the benefits they value. Finally, some benefits can reduce the marginal cost to an employee of extra working time. I develop a simple model that integrates these factors. I then generate empirical implications of the model and use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to test these implications. I examine access to employer-provided meals, child-care, dental insurance, and health insurance. I also study how benefits are grouped together and differences between benefits packages at for-profit, not-for-profit, and government employers. The empirical analysis provides evidence consistent with all three factors in the model contributing to firms' decisions about which benefits to offer.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11817.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11817.

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Date of creation: Dec 2005
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Publication status: published as Oyer, Paul. "Salary or Benefits?" Research in Labor Economics 28 (2008): 429-467.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11817
Note: LE LS
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  1. Chamberlain, Gary, 1980. "Analysis of Covariance with Qualitative Data," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 225-38, January.
  2. Helen Levy, 1998. "Who Pays for Health Insurance? Employee Contributions to Health Insurance Premiums," Working Papers 777, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  3. Gruber, Jonathan, 2000. "Health insurance and the labor market," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 645-706 Elsevier.
  4. Rajan, Raghuram G. & Wulf, Julie, 2006. "Are perks purely managerial excess?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 1-33, January.
  5. Royalty, Anne Beeson, 2000. "Tax preferences for fringe benefits and workers' eligibility for employer health insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 209-227, February.
  6. Jonathan Gruber, 1998. "Health Insurance and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 6762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Salop, Joanne & Salop, Steven, 1976. "Self-Selection and Turnover in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 619-27, November.
  8. Dranove, David & Spier, Kathryn E. & Baker, Laurence, 2000. "'Competition' among employers offering health insurance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 121-140, January.
  9. Milgrom, Paul & Shannon, Chris, 1994. "Monotone Comparative Statics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(1), pages 157-80, January.
  10. Thomas DeLeire & Helen Levy, 2004. "Worker Sorting and the Risk of Death on the Job," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 925-954, October.
  11. Joanne Salop & Steve Salop, 1976. "Self-selection and turnover in the labor market," Special Studies Papers 80, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Brown, Charles, 1980. "Equalizing Differences in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 113-34, February.
  13. Frank A. Scott & Mark C. Berger & Dan A. Black, 1989. "Effects of the tax treatment of fringe benefits on labor market segmentation," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 42(2), pages 216-229, January.
  14. Woodbury, Stephen A, 1983. "Substitution between Wage and Nonwage Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 166-82, March.
  15. Yermack, David, 2006. "Flights of fancy: Corporate jets, CEO perquisites, and inferior shareholder returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 211-242, April.
  16. Oi, Walter Y. & Idson, Todd L., 1999. "Firm size and wages," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 33, pages 2165-2214 Elsevier.
  17. Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
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