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The Choice of Institutions: The Role of Risk and Risk-Aversion

  • Diana Weinhold

    (London School of Economics)

  • Paul J. Zak

    (Claremont Graduate University)

Institutions can affect individual behavior both via their efficiency impact and via their risk reducing mechanisms. However there has been little study of the relative importance of these two channels in how individuals choose between simultaneously extant institutions. This paper presents a simple model of institutional choice in a labor market when there is a risk/reward trade-off, and tests the predictions of the theory. Using a novel empirical approach that adapts an ARCH-in-mean to cross-sectional survey data from China, we find that risk and risk aversion are strongly related to the choice of a labor market institution. Further, risk and risk aversion are quantitatively more important than the sectoral wage differential in explaining employment institution choices. Specifically, we find that wage risk has two orders of magnitude greater impact on labor market institutional choice than the wage difference, with a one standard deviation increase in earnings risk reducing the number of workers choosing jobs in the private (risky) sector by 22%.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Others with number 0508004.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: 06 Aug 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpot:0508004
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 22
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  1. Weiss, Yoram, 1972. "The Risk Element in Occupational and Educational Choices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(6), pages 1203-13, Nov.-Dec..
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  3. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jeff E. Biddle, 1993. "Beauty and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ormiston, Michael B & Schlee, Edward E, 1994. "Wage Uncertainty and Competitive Equilibrium in Labour Markets," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 61(242), pages 137-45, May.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Chetan Ghate & Quan Vu Le & Paul J. Zak, 2002. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in an Economy Facing Socio-Political Instability," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 308, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  7. Levhari, David & Weiss, Yoram, 1974. "The Effect of Risk on the Investment in Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 950-63, December.
  8. Hayashi, Fumio & Altonji, Joseph & Kotlikoff, Laurence, 1996. "Risk-Sharing between and within Families," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(2), pages 261-94, March.
  9. Brixiova, Zuzana & Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro, 1997. "Private sector development in transition economies," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 241-279, June.
  10. Margaret Maurer-Fazio, 1995. "Labor Reform in China: Crossing the River by Feeling the Stones," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 37(4), pages 111-123, December.
  11. Shaw, Kathryn L, 1996. "An Empirical Analysis of Risk Aversion and Income Growth," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(4), pages 626-53, October.
  12. Cheung, Steven N S, 1969. "Transaction Costs, Risk Aversion, and the Choice of Contractual Arrangements," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(1), pages 23-42, April.
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