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Why You Can't Find a Taxi in the Rain and Other Labor Supply Lessons from Cab Drivers

Author

Listed:
  • Henry S. Farber

    (Princeton University)

Abstract

In a seminal paper, Camerer, Babcock, Loewenstein, and Thaler (1997) find that the wage elasticity of daily hours of work New York City (NYC) taxi drivers is negative and conclude that their labor supply behavior is consistent with target earning (having reference dependent preferences). I replicate and extend the CBLT analysis using data from all trips taken in all taxi cabs in NYC for the 5 years from 2009-2013. Using the model of expectations-based reference points of Koszegi and Rabin (2006), I distinguish between anticipated and unanticipated daily wage variation and present evidence that only a small fraction of wage variation (about 1/8) is unanticipated so that reference dependence (which is relevant only in response to unanticipated variation) can,at best,play a limited role in determining labor supply. The overall pattern in my data is clear: drivers tend to respond positively to unanticipated as well as anticipated increases in earnings opportunities. Additionally, using a discrete choice stopping model, the probability of a shift ending is strongly positively related to hours worked but at best weakly related to income earned. These results are consistent with the neoclassical optimizing model of labor supply and suggest that consideration of gain-loss utility and reference dependence is not an important factor in these labor supply decisions.I explore heterogeneity across drivers in their labor supply elasticities and consider whether new drivers differ from more experienced drivers in their behavior. I find substantial heterogeneity across drivers in their elasticities, but the estimated elasticities are generally positive and only rarely substantially negative. I also find that new drivers with smaller elasticities are more likely to exit the industry while drivers who remain learn quickly to be better optimizers (have positive labor supply elasticities that grow with experience).

Suggested Citation

  • Henry S. Farber, 2014. "Why You Can't Find a Taxi in the Rain and Other Labor Supply Lessons from Cab Drivers," Working Papers 583a, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:583a
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chang, Tom & Gross, Tal, 2014. "How many pears would a pear packer pack if a pear packer could pack pears at quasi-exogenously varying piece rates?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 1-17.
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    3. Gerald S. Oettinger, 1999. "An Empirical Analysis of the Daily Labor Supply of Stadium Vendors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 360-392, April.
    4. Vincent P. Crawford & Juanjuan Meng, 2011. "New York City Cab Drivers' Labor Supply Revisited: Reference-Dependent Preferences with Rational-Expectations Targets for Hours and Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1912-1932, August.
    5. 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 1059-1085, December.
    6. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Goette, 2007. "Do Workers Work More if Wages Are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 298-317, March.
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    8. Doran, Kirk, 2014. "Are long-term wage elasticities of labor supply more negative than short-term ones?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 208-210.
    9. Tatiana A. Homonoff, 2013. "Can Small Incentives Have Large Effects? The Impact of Taxes versus Bonuses on Disposable Bag Use," Working Papers 1483, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    10. Henry S. Farber, 2005. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 46-82, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:soceco:v:75:y:2018:i:c:p:1-11 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Raj Chetty, 2015. "Behavioral Economics and Public Policy: A Pragmatic Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 1-33, May.
    3. repec:hrv:faseco:34330194 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Jonathan V. Hall & Alan B. Krueger, 2015. "An Analysis of the Labor Market for Uber's Driver-Partners in the United States," Working Papers 587, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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