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Aggregate Implications of Indivisible Labor

  • Casey B. Mulligan

I suggest that the aggregate implications of indivisible labor are few, and subtle. First, I model behavior in an 'indivisible labor' environment like those of Diamond and Mirrlees (1978, 1986), Hansen (1985), Rogerson (1988), Christiano and Eichenbaum (1992) and show that aggregate behavior in such an economy is indistinguishable from aggregates generated by the divisible labor model of Lucas and Rapping (1969); any data on aggregate hours and earnings generated by the divisible (indivisible) model can be generated by a similar parameterization of the indivisible (divisible) model. Second, I generalize the aforementioned models of indivisible labor to allow for labor supply on the 'intensive' margin, and to allow for nonlinear taxes. The aggregate implications of doing the former are quite subtle, but doing the latter suggests that the indivisibility of labor may have implications for public finance. My results also imply that backward bending aggregate labor supply, and any nonnegative degree of aggregate intertemporal substitution, are consistent with standard economic theory even when all labor is supplied on the so-called 'extensive' margin. Finally, my results suggest that the classic aggregate studies of labor supply by Mincer, Bowen and Finegan, and others have a simple microeconomic interpretation.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8159.

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Date of creation: Mar 2001
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Publication status: published as Advances in Macroeconomics, (B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics), Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 4 (2001).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8159
Note: EFG LS
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  1. Casey B. Mulligan, 1998. "Microfoundations and macro implications of indivisible labor," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 126, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Greenwood, J. & Hercowitz, Z., 1991. "The Allocation of Capital and Time Over the Business Cycles," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9104, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  3. Cooley, T.F. & Hansen, G.D., 1988. "The Inflation Tax In A Real Business Cycle Model," Papers 88-05, Rochester, Business - General.
  4. Harold L. Cole & Edward C. Prescott, 1996. "Valuation equilibria with clubs," Staff Report 174, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Richard Rogerson, 2010. "Indivisible Labor, Lotteries and Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 250, David K. Levine.
  6. Christiano, Lawrence J & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1992. "Current Real-Business-Cycle Theories and Aggregate Labor-Market Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 430-50, June.
  7. Hansen, Gary D. & Sargent, Thomas J., 1988. "Straight time and overtime in equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 281-308.
  8. Mincer, Jacob & Ofek, Haim, 1979. "The Distribution of Lifetime Labor Force Participation of Married Women: Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(1), pages 197-201, February.
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  16. Heckman, James J, 1993. "What Has Been Learned about Labor Supply in the Past Twenty Years?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 116-21, May.
  17. Ashenfelter, Orley, 1980. "Unemployment as Disequilibrium in a Model of Aggregate Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(3), pages 547-64, April.
  18. Barro, Robert J & Sahasakul, Chaipat, 1983. "Measuring the Average Marginal Tax Rate from the Individual Income Tax," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(4), pages 419-52, October.
  19. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1991. "Hours and Employment Variation in Business Cycle Theory," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 63-81, January.
  20. Cho, Jang-Ok, 1995. "Ex post heterogeneity and the business cycle," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 533-551, April.
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  22. Pencavel, John, 1987. "Labor supply of men: A survey," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 3-102 Elsevier.
  23. Ben-Porath, Yoram, 1973. "Labor-Force Participation Rates and the Supply of Labor," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 697-704, May-June.
  24. Casey B. Mulligan, 1997. "Pecuniary Incentives to Work in the U.S. during World War II," NBER Working Papers 6326, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Heckman, James J, 1978. "A Partial Survey of Recent Research on the Labor Supply of Women," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 200-207, May.
  26. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Rapping, Leonard A, 1969. "Real Wages, Employment, and Inflation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(5), pages 721-54, Sept./Oct.
  27. James P. Smith, 2004. "Family Labor Supply over the Life Cycle," Labor and Demography 0404002, EconWPA.
  28. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ghez75-1, June.
  29. Diamond, P. A. & Mirrlees, J. A., 1978. "A model of social insurance with variable retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 295-336, December.
  30. Lars Peter Hansen & James J. Heckman, 1996. "The Empirical Foundations of Calibration," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 87-104, Winter.
  31. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1999. "Social security in theory and practice (I): Facts and political theories," Economics Working Papers 384, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  32. Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, 1996. "Welfare Transfers in Two-Parent Families: Labor Supply and Welfare Participation under AFDC-UP," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(2), pages 295-332, March.
  33. MaCurdy, Thomas E, 1981. "An Empirical Model of Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Setting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1059-85, December.
  34. Hamilton, James D, 1988. "A Neoclassical Model of Unemployment and the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(3), pages 593-617, June.
  35. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
  36. Hausman, Jerry A., 1985. "Taxes and labor supply," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 213-263 Elsevier.
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  38. Cho, Jang-Ok & Cooley, Thomas F., 1994. "Employment and hours over the business cycle," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 411-432, March.
  39. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1986. " Payroll-Tax Financed Social Insurance with Variable Retirement," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 25-50.
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