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Duration Dependence and Labor Market Conditions: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment

  • Kory Kroft
  • Fabian Lange
  • Matthew J. Notowidigdo

This paper studies the role of employer behavior in generating "negative duration dependence" -- the adverse effect of a longer unemployment spell -- by sending fictitious resumes to real job postings in 100 U.S. cities. Our results indicate that the likelihood of receiving a callback for an interview significantly decreases with the length of a worker's unemployment spell, with the majority of this decline occurring during the first eight months. We explore how this effect varies with local labor market conditions, and find that duration dependence is stronger when the labor market is tighter. We develop a theoretical framework that shows how the sign of this interaction effect can be used to discern among leading models of duration dependence based on employer screening, employer ranking, and human capital depreciation. Our results suggest that employer screening plays an important role in generating duration dependence; employers use the unemployment spell length as a signal of unobserved productivity and recognize that this signal is less informative in weak labor markets.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18387.

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Date of creation: Sep 2012
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Publication status: published as Duration Dependence and Labor Market Conditions: Evidence from a Field Experiment* Kory Kroft University of Toronto Fabian Lange McGill University, IZA, and CESifo Matthew J. Notowidigdo The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2013) doi: 10.1093/qje/qjt015 First published online: April 16, 2013
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18387
Note: LS
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  1. Stefan Eriksson & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2014. "Do Employers Use Unemployment as a Sorting Criterion When Hiring? Evidence from a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(3), pages 1014-39, March.
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  8. Nicola Pavoni, 2009. "Optimal Unemployment Insurance, With Human Capital Depreciation, And Duration Dependence," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(2), pages 323-362, 05.
  9. Guido W. Imbens & Lisa M. Lynch, 1993. "Re-Employment Probabilities over the Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 4585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. van den Berg, Gerard J & van Ours, Jan C, 1996. "Unemployment Dynamics and Duration Dependence," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 100-125, January.
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  12. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 1998. "Learning from the Behavior of Others: Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 151-170, Summer.
  13. Alan B. Krueger & Andreas Mueller, 2011. "Job Search, Emotional Well-Being and Job Finding in a Period of Mass Unemployment: Evidence from High-Frequency Longitudinal Data," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 42(1 (Spring), pages 1-81.
  14. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 991-1013, September.
  15. van den Berg, G. & van Ours, J.C., 1996. "Unemployment dynamics and duration dependence," Other publications TiSEM 4374742f-8d86-458d-9ab3-6, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  16. Lockwood, Ben, 1991. "Information Externalities in the Labour Market and the Duration of Unemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(4), pages 733-53, July.
  17. Acemoglu, Daron, 1995. "Public Policy in a Model of Long-Term Unemployment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 62(246), pages 161-78, May.
  18. Shavell, Steven & Weiss, Laurence, 1979. "The Optimal Payment of Unemployment Insurance Benefits over Time," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1347-62, December.
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