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A Shred of Credible Evidence on the Long Run Elasticity of Labor Supply


  • Orley C. Ashenfelter
  • Kirk B. Doran
  • Bruce Schaller


Virtually all public policies regarding taxation and the redistribution of income rely on explicit or implicit assumptions about the long run effect of wages rates on labor supply. The available estimates of the wage elasticity of male labor supply in the literature have varied between -0.2 and 0.2, implying that permanent wage increases have relatively small, poorly determined effects on labor supplied. The variation in existing estimates calls for a simple, natural experiment in which men can change their hours of work, and in which wages have been exogenously and permanently changed. We introduce a panel data set of taxi drivers who choose their own hours, and who experienced two exogenous permanent fare increases instituted by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, and we use these data to fit a simple structural labor supply function. Our estimates suggest that the elasticity of labor supply is about -0.2, implying that income effects dominate substitution effects in the long run labor supply of males.

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  • Orley C. Ashenfelter & Kirk B. Doran & Bruce Schaller, 2010. "A Shred of Credible Evidence on the Long Run Elasticity of Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 15746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15746
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John C. Ham, 1982. "Estimation of a Labour Supply Model with Censoring Due to Unemployment and Underemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(3), pages 335-354.
    2. 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.
    3. Pencavel, John, 1987. "Labor supply of men: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 3-102 Elsevier.
    4. 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.
    5. Blundell, Richard & Ham, John & Meghir, Costas, 1987. "Unemployment and Female Labour Supply," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(388a), pages 44-64, Supplemen.
    6. Henry S. Farber, 2005. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 46-82, February.
    7. Altonji, Joseph G & Paxson, Christina H, 1988. "Labor Supply Preferences, Hours Constraints, and Hours-Wage Trade-Offs," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(2), pages 254-276, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ignacio Álvarez & Natalia da Silva & Álvaro Forteza & Ianina Rossi, 2012. "Incentivos y patrones de retiro en Uruguay," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 27(2), pages 219-271.
    2. Doran, Kirk, 2014. "Are long-term wage elasticities of labor supply more negative than short-term ones?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 208-210.
    3. Brodeur, Abel & Nield, Kerry, 2016. "Has Uber Made It Easier to Get a Ride in the Rain?," IZA Discussion Papers 9986, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. John Pencavel, 2016. "Whose Preferences Are Revealed In Hours Of Work?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(1), pages 9-24, January.
    5. Alexandre Mas & Amanda Pallais, 2017. "Labor Supply and the Value of Non-Work Time: Experimental Estimates from the Field," NBER Working Papers 23906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Francis Green & Alan Felstead & Duncan Gallie & Hande Inanc, 2016. "Job-Related Well-Being Through the Great Recession," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 389-411, February.
    7. Pencavel, John, 2015. "The labor supply of self-employed workers: The choice of working hours in worker co-ops," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 677-689.
    8. Soldatos, Gerasimos T. & Varelas, Erotokritos, 2017. "Firms’ rational expectations, workers’ psychology, and monetary policy in a behavioral real business cycle model," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 129-139.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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