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Worker Absence and Productivity: Evidence from Teaching

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  • Mariesa A. Herrmann
  • Jonah E. Rockoff

Abstract

A significant amount of work time is lost each year due to worker absence, but evidence on the productivity losses from absenteeism remains scant due to difficulties with identification. In this paper, we use uniquely detailed data on the timing, duration, and cause of absences among teachers to address many of the potential biases from the endogeneity of worker absence. Our analysis indicates that worker absences have large negative impacts: the expected loss in daily productivity from employing a temporary substitute is on par with replacing a regular worker of average productivity with one at the 10th-20th percentile of productivity. We also find daily productivity losses decline with the length of an absence spell, consistent with managers engaging in costly search for more productive substitutes and temporary workers learning on the job. While illness is a major cause of absenteeism among teachers, we find no evidence that poor health also causes lower on-the-job productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Mariesa A. Herrmann & Jonah E. Rockoff, 2010. "Worker Absence and Productivity: Evidence from Teaching," NBER Working Papers 16524, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16524 Note: ED LS
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Beyer, Andreas & Farmer, Roger E. A., 2003. "Identifying the monetary transmission mechanism using structural breaks," Working Paper Series 275, European Central Bank.
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    3. Leeper, Eric M., 1991. "Equilibria under 'active' and 'passive' monetary and fiscal policies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 129-147, February.
    4. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    5. Roger E. A. Farmer, 1999. "Macroeconomics of Self-fulfilling Prophecies, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262062038, January.
    6. Reinhart, Karmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. ""This time is different": panorama of eight centuries of financial crises," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 77-114, March.
    7. Klenow, Peter J. & Malin, Benjamin A., 2010. "Microeconomic Evidence on Price-Setting," Handbook of Monetary Economics,in: Benjamin M. Friedman & Michael Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 6, pages 231-284 Elsevier.
    8. John B. Taylor, 1999. "Monetary Policy Rules," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number tayl99-1, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Herrmann, Mariesa A. & Rockoff, Jonah E., 2013. "Do menstrual problems explain gender gaps in absenteeism and earnings?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 12-22.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets

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