Do Economic Recessions Squeeze the Middle-Class?

February 27, 2018
By: Alberto Batinti ; Joan Costa-i-Font
Economic downturns give rise to unexpected employment shocks that can reshape the distribution of population income, and hence produce a “middle-class squeeze”. However, there is limited empirical evidence testing the latter. This paper aims at testing the ‘middle-class squeeze’ hypothesis drawing from unique data from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) for several years, including the period of the Great Recession, and the Integrated Values Study (IVS) obtained by merging data from the World Value Survey (WVS) and the European Values Study (EVS). We examine the association between changes in unemployment in a recession drawing upon a heterogeneous set of both income and middle-class definitions as well as an extensive list of controls and different recession periods. Our findings suggest no robust evidence that recessions produce a middle-class squeeze, though they increase the share of the population regarding itself as ‘middle class’. The effect is heterogeneous to the baseline unemployment at the time of a recession, country spending on social protection and middle-class measurements and definitions. However, when we restrict our analysis to the recent Great Recession, we do find some evidence of a ‘middle-class squeeze’.
Keywords: middle-class size, economic recessions, employment shocks, income distribution
JEL: F22 I30 J64

The Effects of Youth Labor Market Reforms: Evidence from Italian Apprenticeships

February 27, 2018
By: Andrea Albanese ; Lorenzo Cappellari ; Marco Leonardi
This paper estimates the causal effects of the 2003 reform of the Italian apprenticeship contract which aimed at introducing the “dual system†in Italy by allowing on-the-job training. The reform also increased the age eligibility of the apprenticeship contract and introduced a minimum floor to apprentices’ wages. Using administrative data and balancing techniques we find that five years after hiring, the new contract improves the chances of moving to a permanent job in the same firm, yet this happens mostly in large firms. There are also sizeable long-run wage effects of the reform, well beyond the legal duration of apprenticeships, compatible with increased human capital accumulation probably due to the training provisions of the reform.
Keywords: apprenticeship, permanent work, youth employment, covariate balancing propensity score
JEL: J24 J41 C21

Uber vs. Taxi: A Driver’s Eye View

February 27, 2018
By: Joshua D. Angrist ; Sydnee Caldwell ; Jonathan V. Hall
Ride-hailing drivers pay a proportion of their fares to the ride-hailing platform operator, a commission-based compensation model used by many internet-mediated service providers. To Uber drivers, this commission is known as the Uber fee. By contrast, traditional taxi drivers in most US cities make a fixed payment independent of their earnings, usually a weekly or daily medallion lease, but keep every fare dollar net of expenses. We assess these compensation models from a driver’s point of view using an experiment that offered random samples of Boston Uber drivers opportunities to lease a virtual taxi medallion that eliminates the Uber fee. Some drivers were offered a negative fee. Drivers’ labor supply response to our offers reveals a large intertemporal substitution elasticity, on the order of 1.2. At the same time, our virtual lease program was under-subscribed: many drivers who would have benefitted from buying an inexpensive lease chose to opt out. We use these results to compute the average compensation required to make drivers indifferent between ride-hailing and a traditional taxi compensation contract. The results suggest that ride-hailing drivers gain considerably from the opportunity to drive without leasing.
JEL: J18 J22 J41 J58

Are the Spanish Long-Term Unemployed Unemployable?

February 21, 2018
By: Samuel Bentolila ; J. Ignacio García-Pérez ; Marcel Jansen
Long-term unemployment reached unprecedented levels in Spain in the wake of the Great Recession and it still affects around 57% of the unemployed. We document the sources that contributed to the rise in long-term unemployment and analyze its persistence using state-of-the-art duration models. We find pervasive evidence of negative duration dependence, while personal characteristics such as mature age, lack of experience, and entitlement to unemployment benefits are key to understand the cross-sectional differences in the incidence of long-term unemployment. The negative impact of low levels of skill and education is muted by the large share of temporary contracts, but once we restrict attention to employment spells lasting at least one month these factors also contribute to a higher risk of long-term unemployment. Surprisingly, workers from the construction sector do not fare worse than similar workers from other sectors. Finally, self-reported reservation wages are found to respond strongly to the cycle, but much less to individual unemployment duration. In view of these findings, we argue that active labour market policies should play a more prominent role in the fight against long-term unemployment while early activation should be used to curb inflows.
Keywords: long-term unemployment, great recession, duration models, survival probability, Spain
JEL: J63 J64 J65 C41

The ‘Healthy Worker Effect’: Do Healthy People Climb the Occupational Ladder?

February 21, 2018
By: Costa Font, Joan (London School of Economics) ; Ljunge, Martin (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))
The association between occupational status and health has been taken to reveal the presence of health inequalities shaped by occupational status. However, that interpretation assumes no influence of health status in explaining occupational standing. This paper documents evidence of non-negligible returns to occupation status on health (which we refer to as the ‘healthy worker effect’). We use a unique empirical strategy that addressed reverse causality, namely an instrumental variable strategy using the variation in average health in the migrant’s country of origin, a health measure plausibly not determined by the migrant’s occupational status. Our findings suggest that health status exerts significant effects on occupational status in several dimensions; having a supervising role, worker autonomy, and worker influence. The effect size of health is larger than that of an upper secondary education.
Keywords: Occupational status; Self-reported health; Immigrants; Work autonomy; Supervising role
JEL: I18 J50

The Non-Market Benefits of Education and Ability

February 21, 2018
By: James J. Heckman ; John Eric Humphries ; Gregory Veramendi
This paper analyzes the non-market benefits of education and ability. Using a dynamic model of educational choice we estimate returns to education that account for selection bias and sorting on gains. We investigate a range of non-market outcomes including incarceration, mental health, voter participation, trust, and participation in welfare. We find distinct patterns of returns that depend on the levels of schooling and ability. Unlike the monetary benefits of education, the benefits to education for many non-market outcomes are greater for low-ability persons. College graduation decreases welfare use, lowers depression, and raises self-esteem more for less-able individuals.
JEL: D01 I14 I24 I28

Subjective and physiological measures of well-being: an exploratory analysis using birth-cohort data

February 21, 2018
By: Andrén, Daniela (Örebro University School of Business) ; Clark, Andrew E (Paris School of Economics (PSE)) ; D´Ambrosio, Conchita (University of Luxembourg) ; Karlsson, Sune (Örebro University School of Business) ; Pettersson, Nicklas (Örebro University School of Business)
We use a rich longitudinal data set following a cohort of Swedish women from age 10 to 49 to analyse the effects of birth and early-life conditions on adulthood outcomes. These latter include both well-being and the stress hormone cortisol. Employment and marital status are important adult determinants of well-being. Log family income and absence from school also predict adult well-being, although their importance falls when controlling for adult and birth characteristics. Among the birth characteristics, we find that high birth weight (>4.3kg) affects adult well-being. We predict the level of adult cortisol only poorly, and suggest that the relationship between life satisfaction and cortisol is non-monotonic: both high and low cortisol are negatively correlated with life satisfaction. The results from an OLS life satisfaction regression and a multinomial logit of high or low cortisol (as compared to medium) are more similar to each other.
Keywords: life satisfaction; cortisol; birth-cohort data; adult; child and birth outcomes; multivariate imputation by chained equations
JEL: A12 D60 I31