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The Labor Market Impact of Employer Health Benefit Mandates: Evidence from San Francisco's Health Care Security Ordinance

  • Carrie H. Colla
  • William H. Dow
  • Arindrajit Dube

A key issue surrounding employer benefit mandates is the incidence on workers through wages and employment. In this paper, we address this question using a pay-or-play policy implemented in San Francisco in 2008 that requires employers to either provide health benefits or contribute to a public option health plan. We estimate the impact on employment and earnings for the private sector overall, as well as for high impact sectors: retail and accommodation and food services. We develop a novel approach for individual case studies by combining both spatial discontinuity in policies and permutation-type inference using other MSAs. We find that, compared to control counties, employment and earnings patterns in San Francisco did not change appreciably following the policy. This was true for industries most affected by the mandate, as well as for overall private sector employment. The results are generally robust to inclusion of different control groups, county-specific time trends, and varying pre-periods. In contrast to the small effects on the labor market, we do find that about 25% of surveyed restaurants imposed customer surcharges, with the median surcharge being 4% of the bill. These results indicate that while little of the burden of the mandate fell on San Francisco workers, approximately half of the incidence of the mandate fell on consumers.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17198.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17198.

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Date of creation: Jul 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17198
Note: HC HE LS
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  1. Gruber, Jonathan, 1994. "The Incidence of Mandated Maternity Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 622-41, June.
  2. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and taxation: theory and evidence," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-11, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Dube, Andrajit & Lester, T. William & Reich, Michael, 2010. "Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt86w5m90m, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  4. Colla, Carrie Hoverman & Dow, William H. & Dube, Arindrajit, 2010. "How Do Employers React to a Pay-or-Play Mandate? Early Evidence from San Francisco," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt2sw0q5dh, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  5. Timothy Conley & Christopher Taber, 2005. "Inference with "Difference in Differences" with a Small Number of Policy Changes," NBER Technical Working Papers 0312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Thomas C. Buchmueller & John DiNardo & Robert G. Valletta, 2009. "The effect of an employer health insurance mandate on health insurance coverage and the demand for labor: evidence from Hawaii," Working Paper Series 2009-08, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  7. Summers, Lawrence H, 1989. "Some Simple Economics of Mandated Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 177-83, May.
  8. Arindrajit Dube & Suresh Naidu & Michael Reich, 2007. "The Economic Effects of a Citywide Minimum Wage," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(4), pages 522-543, July.
  9. Norman K. Thurston, 1997. "Labor market effects of Hawaii's mandatory employer-provided health insurance," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 51(1), pages 117-135, October.
  10. Kahn, Shulamit, 1997. "Evidence of Nominal Wage Stickiness from Microdata," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 993-1008, December.
  11. Viscusi, W Kip & Moore, Michael J, 1987. "Workers' Compensation: Wage Effects, Benefit Inadequacies, and the Value of Health Losses," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(2), pages 249-61, May.
  12. David M. Cutler & Brigitte C. Madrian, 1998. "Labor Market Responses to Rising Health Insurance Costs: Evidence on Hours Worked," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(3), pages 509-530, Autumn.
  13. Robert Kaestner, 1996. "The effect of government-mandated benefits on youth unemployment," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 50(1), pages 122-142, October.
  14. Stephen G. Donald & Kevin Lang, 2007. "Inference with Difference-in-Differences and Other Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 221-233, May.
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