Car Ownership, Employment, and Earnings
In this paper, we assess whether the positive effects of car ownership on employment outcomes observed in past research are causal. We match state data on car insurance premiums and per-gallon gas taxes to a microdata sample containing information on car ownership and employment outcomes comparable to the those explored in previous research. In OLS regressions that control for observable demographic and human capital variables, we find large differences in employment rates, weekly hours worked, and hourly earnings between those with and without cars. Instrumenting car ownership on insurance and gas tax costs yields estimates of the employment and hours effects of car ownership that are quite close to the OLS estimates. Concerning wages, the IV models yield negative effects of car ownership on wages. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that employers located in states with high auto maintenance costs must pay compensating differentials to their employees. When we stratify the sample by skill groupings, we find positive significant employment and hours effects for all skill groups, with larger car-employment effects for low-skilled workers and comparable hours effects across skill categories. Again, the IV results for wages yield negative effects that are insignificant for low- and medium-skilled workers and significant for high-skilled workers.
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