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Asymmetric labor-supply responses to wage-rate changes: Evidence from a field experiment

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  • Doerrenberg, Philipp
  • Duncan, Denvil
  • Löffler, Max

Abstract

The standard labor-supply literature typically assumes that the labor supply response to wage increases is the same as that for equivalent wage decreases. However, evidence from the behavioral-economics literature suggests that people are loss averse and thus perceive losses differently than gains. This behavioral insight may imply that workers respond differently to wage increases than to wage decreases. We estimate the effect of wage increases and decreases on labor supply using a randomized field experiment with workers on Amazon's Mechanical Turk. The results provide evidence that wage increases have smaller effects than wage decreases, suggesting that the labor-supply response to wage changes is asymmetric. This finding is especially strong on the extensive margin where the elasticity for a wage decrease is twice that for a wage increase. These findings suggest that a reference-dependent utility function that incorporates loss aversion is the most appropriate way to model labor supply.

Suggested Citation

  • Doerrenberg, Philipp & Duncan, Denvil & Löffler, Max, 2016. "Asymmetric labor-supply responses to wage-rate changes: Evidence from a field experiment," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-006, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:16006
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Arindrajit Dube & Jeff Jacobs & Suresh Naidu & Siddharth Suri, 2018. "Monopsony in Online Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 24416, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Joy A. Buchanan & Daniel Houser, 2017. "What if Wages Fell During a Recession?," Working Papers 1062, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Aug 2017.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    labor supply; loss aversion; labor supply elasticities w.r.t. wages;

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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