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Workers' Compensation and Injury Duration: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

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  • Bruce D. Meyer
  • W. Kip Viscusi
  • David L. Durbin

Abstract

This paper examines the effect of workers' compensation on the time until an injured worker returns to work. Two large increases in the maximum weekly benefit amount in Kentucky am Michigan are examined. The increases raised the benefit amount for high earnings individuals by over sixty percent, while low earnings individuals, who did not earn enough to be eligible for the old maximum, did not experience a change in their incentives. A comparison of the behavior of pecp1e injured the year before the benefit increases to those injured the year after provides an estimate of the effect of higher benefits on injury duration. This use of a "natural experiment" allows us to separate the effect of the level of the benefits from the effect of previous earnings, which is a common difficulty in the analysis of social insurance programs. The analysis uses individual records from a large number of insurance companies. Time out of work increases dramatically for those groups eligible for the higher benefits, while those whose benefits do not change do not experience a change in duration. The estimates suggest large moral hazard effects of higher benefits, with the estimated elasticity of spell duration with respect to benefits of approximately .3 to .4.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce D. Meyer & W. Kip Viscusi & David L. Durbin, 1990. "Workers' Compensation and Injury Duration: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 3494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3494
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "Workers' Compensation Insurance and the Duration of Workplace Injuries," NBER Working Papers 3253, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Finis Welch, 1977. "What Have We Learned from Empirical Studies of Unemployment Insurance?," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(4), pages 451-461, July.
    3. repec:fth:prinin:261 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Krueger, Alan B., 1990. "Incentive effects of workers' compensation insurance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 73-99, February.
    5. Butler, Richard J & Worrall, John D, 1983. "Workers' Compensation: Benefit and Injury Claims Rates in the Seventies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(4), pages 580-589, November.
    6. Alan Krueger, 1990. "Worker's Compensation Insurance and the Duration of Workplace Injuries," Working Papers 641, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    7. Bruce D. Meyer, 1989. "A Quasi-Experimental Approach to the Effects of Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 3159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ronald G. Ehrenberg, 1985. "Workers' Compensation, Wages, and the Risk of Injury," NBER Working Papers 1538, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Butler, Richard J & Worrall, John D, 1985. "Work Injury Compensation and the Duration of Nonwork Spells," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(379), pages 714-724, September.
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