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Wages and the value of nonemployment


Jäger, Simon; Schoefer, Benjamin; Young, Samuel; Zweimüller, Josef (2020). Wages and the value of nonemployment. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 135(4):1905-1963.

Abstract

Nonemployment is often posited as a worker’s outside option in wage-setting models such as bargaining and wage posting. The value of nonemployment is therefore a key determinant of wages. We measure the wage effect of changes in the value of nonemployment among initially employed workers. Our quasi-experimental variation in the value of nonemployment arises from four large reforms of unemployment insurance (UI) benefit levels in Austria. We document that wages are insensitive to UI benefit changes: point estimates imply a wage response of less than $0.01 per $1.00 UI benefit increase, and we can reject sensitivities larger than $0.03. The insensitivity holds even among workers with low wages and high predicted unemployment duration, and among job switchers hired out of unemployment. The insensitivity of wages to the nonemployment value presents a puzzle to the widely used Nash bargaining model, which predicts a sensitivity of $0.24–$0.48. Our evidence supports wage-setting models that insulate wages from the value of nonemployment.

Abstract

Nonemployment is often posited as a worker’s outside option in wage-setting models such as bargaining and wage posting. The value of nonemployment is therefore a key determinant of wages. We measure the wage effect of changes in the value of nonemployment among initially employed workers. Our quasi-experimental variation in the value of nonemployment arises from four large reforms of unemployment insurance (UI) benefit levels in Austria. We document that wages are insensitive to UI benefit changes: point estimates imply a wage response of less than $0.01 per $1.00 UI benefit increase, and we can reject sensitivities larger than $0.03. The insensitivity holds even among workers with low wages and high predicted unemployment duration, and among job switchers hired out of unemployment. The insensitivity of wages to the nonemployment value presents a puzzle to the widely used Nash bargaining model, which predicts a sensitivity of $0.24–$0.48. Our evidence supports wage-setting models that insulate wages from the value of nonemployment.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Economics and Econometrics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Economics and econometrics
Language:English
Date:1 November 2020
Deposited On:22 Jan 2021 16:36
Last Modified:23 Jan 2021 21:00
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0033-5533
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjaa016

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