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The Effect of the Payroll Tax on Earnings: A Test of Competing Models of Wage Determination

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  • Kevin Lang

Abstract

Under the standard competitive model, a tax change affecting workers with highly inelastic labor supply, will lower earnings by the entire nominal employer share of the tax increase. If wages play a motivational role but the market still clears, the range of possible outcomes is broader but wages should still not rise if the tax is nominally divided 50/50. In contrast, because there is excess labor (involuntary unemployment) in equilibrium, efficiency wage models resemble models in which labor supply is perfectly elastic, and thus earnings rise by more than the worker's nominal share. The 1968, 1974 and 1979 increases in the taxable earnings base for FICA provide good opportunities to test the models. This tax increase affected only those workers earning significantly more than the median earnings for male full-time/year-round workers. Such workers' labor force participation is likely to be highly inelastic. The results support models in which the motivational effects of wages are important but cannot clearly distinguish between the efficiency wage and market-clearing versions of those models.

Suggested Citation

  • Kevin Lang, 2003. "The Effect of the Payroll Tax on Earnings: A Test of Competing Models of Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 9537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9537
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    Cited by:

    1. Kugler, Adriana & Kugler, Maurice, 2003. "The labor market effects of payroll taxes in a middle-income country: evidence from Colombia," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0306, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
    2. Adriana Kugler & Maurice Kugler, 2003. "The labor market effects of payroll taxes in a middle-income country: Evidence from Colombia," Economics Working Papers 721, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    3. Emmanuel Saez & Manos Matsaganis & Panos Tsakloglou, 2012. "Earnings Determination and Taxes: Evidence From a Cohort-Based Payroll Tax Reform in Greece," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 493-533.
    4. Aziza GARSAA & Nadine LEVRATTO & Luc TESSIER, 2015. "Do Exemptions From Social Security Contributions Affect Job Creation? New Empirical Evidence From French Overseas Regions," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 42, pages 79-104.
    5. Kevin Lang, 2020. "Effort and wages: Evidence from the payroll tax," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 53(1), pages 108-139, February.
    6. Neumann, M., 2017. "Earnings responses to social security contributions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 55-73.
    7. Adriana Kugler & Maurice Kugler, 2003. "The labor market effects of payroll taxes in a middle-income country: Evidence from Colombia," Economics Working Papers 721, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    8. Libor Dušek & Petr Janský, 2012. "Dopady změn daně z přidané hodnoty na reálné příjmy domácností [The Impact of VAT Changes on the Households´ Real Incomes]," Politická ekonomie, Prague University of Economics and Business, vol. 2012(3), pages 309-329.
    9. Facundo Alvaredo & Thomas Breda & Barra Roantree & Emmanuel Saez, 2017. "Contribution Ceilings and the Incidence of Payroll Taxes," De Economist, Springer, vol. 165(2), pages 129-140, June.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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