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Worker Overconfidence: Field Evidence and Implications for Employee Turnover and Returns from Training

Listed author(s):
  • Mitchell Hoffman
  • Stephen V. Burks

Combining weekly productivity data with weekly productivity beliefs for a large sample of truckers over two years, we show that workers tend to systematically and persistently over-predict their productivity. If workers are overconfident about their own productivity at the current firm relative to their outside option, they should be less likely to quit. Empirically, all else equal, having higher productivity beliefs is associated with an employee being less likely to quit. To study the implications of overconfidence for worker welfare and firm profits, we estimate a structural learning model with biased beliefs that accounts for many key features of the data. While worker overconfidence moderately decreases worker welfare, it also substantially increases firm profits. This may be critical for firms (such as the main one we study) that make large initial investments in worker training.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23240.

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Date of creation: Mar 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23240
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  1. Heckman, James & Singer, Burton, 1984. "A Method for Minimizing the Impact of Distributional Assumptions in Econometric Models for Duration Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 271-320, March.
  2. Oyer, Paul & Schaefer, Scott, 2005. "Why do some firms give stock options to all employees?: An empirical examination of alternative theories," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 99-133, April.
  3. Carl Sanders, 2012. "Skill Uncertainty, Skill Accumulation, and Occupational Choice," 2012 Meeting Papers 633, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
  5. M. Daniele Paserman, 2008. "Job Search and Hyperbolic Discounting: Structural Estimation and Policy Evaluation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(531), pages 1418-1452, 08.
  6. David Eil & Justin M. Rao, 2011. "The Good News-Bad News Effect: Asymmetric Processing of Objective Information about Yourself," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 114-138, May.
  7. Thomas N. Hubbard, 2003. "Information, Decisions, and Productivity: On-Board Computers and Capacity Utilization in Trucking," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1328-1353, September.
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