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The Cyclicality of the Opportunity Cost of Employment

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  • Gabriel Chodorow-Reich
  • Loukas Karabarbounis

Abstract

The flow opportunity cost of moving from unemployment to employment consists of foregone public benefits and the foregone value of non-working time in units of consumption. We construct a time series of the opportunity cost of employment using detailed microdata and administrative or national accounts data to estimate benefit levels, eligibility and take-up of benefits, consumption by labor force status, hours per worker, taxes, and preference parameters. Our estimated opportunity cost is procyclical and volatile over the business cycle. The estimated cyclicality implies far less unemployment volatility in many leading models of the labor market than that observed in the data, irrespective of the level of the opportunity cost.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriel Chodorow-Reich & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2013. "The Cyclicality of the Opportunity Cost of Employment," NBER Working Papers 19678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19678
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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