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The Incentive for Working Hard: Explaining Hours Worked Differences in the U.S. and Germany

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  • Linda A. Bell
  • Richard B. Freeman

Abstract

This paper seeks to explain the greater hours worked by Americans compared to Germans in terms of forward-looking labor supply responses to differences in earnings inequality between the countries. We argue that workers choose current hours of work to gain promotions and advance in the distribution of earnings. Since US earnings are more unequally distributed than German earnings, the same extra work pays off more in the US, generating more hours worked. Supporting this inequality-hours hypothesis, we show that in both countries hours worked is positively related to earnings inequality in cross section occupational contrasts and that hours worked raises future wages and promotion prospects in longitudinal data.

Suggested Citation

  • Linda A. Bell & Richard B. Freeman, 2000. "The Incentive for Working Hard: Explaining Hours Worked Differences in the U.S. and Germany," NBER Working Papers 8051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8051
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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