Emulation, Inequality, and Work Hours: Was Thorsten Veblen Right
We investigate the importance of Veblen effects on work hours, namely the manner in which a desire to emulate the consumption standards of the rich influences individuals’ allocation of time between labor and leisure. Our model of the choice of work hours captures Veblen effects by taking account of the influence of the consumption of the well-to-do on the marginal utility of consumption by the less well-off. The main result is that work hours are increasing in the degree of income inequality. We use data on work hours of manufacturing employees in ten countries over the period 1963-1998, along with three different measures of income inequality to explore this hypothesis. Using both OLS and country-fixed-effects estimates, we find that greater inequality predicts longer work hours. Its effects are large, and estimates are robust across a variety of specifications. Additional evidence suggests that while greater inequality may induce longer hours for conventional incentive reasons, this mechanism does not account for our results. We show that in the presence of Veblen effects, a social welfare optimum cannot be implemented by a flat tax on consumption but may be accomplished by more complicated (progressive) consumption taxes or by subsidizing the leisure of the rich.
|Date of creation:||Nov 2003|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Piazza S.Francesco,7 - 53100 Siena|
Web page: http://www.deps.unisi.it/
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-50, December.
- Oswald, Andrew J., 1983. "Altruism, jealousy and the theory of optimal non-linear taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 77-87, February.
- Harold L. Cole & George J. Mailath & Andrew Postlewaite, .
""Incorporating Concern for Relative Wealth into Economic Models'',"
CARESS Working Papres
95-14, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
- Harold L. Cole & George J. Mailath & Andrew Postlewaite, 1995. "Incorporating concern for relative wealth into economic models," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 12-21.
- Linda Bell, 1998. "Differences in Work Hours and Hours Preferences by Race in the U.S," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 56(4), pages 481-500.
- Landers, Renee M & Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1996. "Rat Race Redux: Adverse Selection in the Determination of Work Hours in Law Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 329-48, June.
- David Neumark & Andrew Postlewaite, 1995.
"Relative Income Concerns and the Rise in Married Women's Employment,"
NBER Working Papers
5044, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Neumark, David & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1998. "Relative income concerns and the rise in married women's employment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 157-183, October.
- Sen, Amartya, 1983. "Poor, Relatively Speaking," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 153-69, July.
- Bagwell, Laurie Simon & Bernheim, B Douglas, 1996. "Veblen Effects in a Theory of Conspicuous Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 349-73, June.
- Richard B. Freeman, 2002.
"The Labour Market in the New Information Economy,"
NBER Working Papers
9254, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Richard B. Freeman, 2002. "The labour market in the new information economy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20062, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
- Richard Freeman, 2002. "The Labour Market in the New Information Economy," CEP Discussion Papers dp0558, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
- Michael J. Boskin & Eytan Sheshinski, 1978. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation When Individual Welfare Depends upon Relative Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(4), pages 589-601.
- Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1994.
"Satisfaction and comparison income,"
CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange)
- 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.
- Bell, Linda A. & Freeman, Richard B., 2001. "The incentive for working hard: explaining hours worked differences in the US and Germany," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 181-202, May.
- BÃ¶heim, RenÃ© & Taylor, Mark P., 2001.
"Actual and preferred working hours,"
ISER Working Paper Series
2001-06, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
- Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "Conspicuous consumption, snobbism and conformism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 55-71, October.
- Ireland, Norman J., 1994. "On limiting the market for status signals," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 91-110, January.
- Eric Alden Smith & Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Costly Signaling and Cooperation," Working Papers 00-12-071, Santa Fe Institute.
- Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:409. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Fabrizio Becatti)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.