nep-ltv New Economics Papers
on Unemployment, Inequality and Poverty
Issue of 2005‒05‒07
eight papers chosen by
Maximo Rossi
Universidad de la República

  1. Downward Nominal Wage Flexibility: Real or Measurement Error? By Peter Gottschalk
  2. The Analytics of Segmented Labor Markets By P R Agénor
  3. Structural Equations, Treatment Effects and Econometric Policy Evaluation By James J. Heckman; Edward Vytlacil
  4. Work and Leisure in the U.S. and Europe: Why So Different? By Alberto Alesina; Edward L. Glaeser; Bruce Sacerdote
  5. The Evolution of the Mexican-Born Workforce in the United States By George J. Borjas; Lawrence F. Katz
  6. Labour Market Institutions Without Blinders: The Debate over Flexibility and Labour Market Performance By Richard B. Freeman
  7. Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World: Fiscal Implications, Introduction and Summary By Jonathan Gruber; David Wise
  8. The Great Escape: A Review Essay on Fogel's 'The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100' By Angus Deaton

  1. By: Peter Gottschalk (Boston College)
    Abstract: This paper presents a new method to correct for measurement error in wage data and applies this method to address an old question. How much downward wage flexibility is there in the U.S? We apply standard methods developed by Bai and Perron (1998b) to identify structural breaks in time series data. Applying these methods to wage histories allows us to identify when each person experienced a change in nominal wages. The length of the period of constant nominal wages is left unrestricted and is allowed to differ across individuals, as is the size and direction of the nominal wage change. We apply these methods to data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The evidence we provide indicates that the probability of a cut in nominal wages is substantially overstated in data that is not corrected for measurement error.
    Keywords: nominal wage rigidity, measurement error
    JEL: J38
    Date: 2004–10–31
  2. By: P R Agénor
    Abstract: This paper provides an analytical overview of models of segmented urban labor markets in developing countries. It begins by reviewing the characteristics of the labor market in these countries, including institutions and regulations that may lead to segmentation. The wage and employment e?ects of imperfect labor mobility between the formal and informal sectors are then illustrated with a simple graphical analysis. Formal models of urban wage formation are discussed next, and a two-sector shirking model with segmented urban labor markets is presented. The model is used to analyze the impact of an increase in the minimum wage on unskilled unemployment.
    Date: 2005
  3. By: James J. Heckman; Edward Vytlacil
    Abstract: This paper uses the marginal treatment effect (MTE) to unify the nonparametric literature on treatment effects with the econometric literature on structural estimation using a nonparametric analog of a policy invariant parameter; to generate a variety of treatment effects from a common semiparametric functional form; to organize the literature on alternative estimators; and to explore what policy questions commonly used estimators in the treatment effect literature answer. A fundamental asymmetry intrinsic to the method of instrumental variables is noted. Recent advances in IV estimation allow for heterogeneity in responses but not in choices, and the method breaks down when both choice and response equations are heterogeneous in a general way.
    JEL: C1
    Date: 2005–04
  4. By: Alberto Alesina; Edward L. Glaeser; Bruce Sacerdote
    Abstract: Americans average 25.1 working hours per person in working age per week, but the Germans average 18.6 hours. The average American works 46.2 weeks per year, while the French average 40 weeks per year. Why do western Europeans work so much less than Americans? Recent work argues that these differences result from higher European tax rates, but the vast empirical labor supply literature suggests that tax rates can explain only a small amount of the differences in hours between the U.S. and Europe. Another popular view is that these differences are explained by long-standing European "culture," but Europeans worked more than Americans as late as the 1960s. In this paper, we argue that European labor market regulations, advocated by unions in declining European industries who argued "work less, work all" explain the bulk of the difference between the U.S. and Europe. These policies do not seem to have increased employment, but they may have had a more society-wide influence on leisure patterns because of a social multiplier where the returns to leisure increase as more people are taking longer vacations.
    JEL: J3 E0
    Date: 2005–04
  5. By: George J. Borjas; Lawrence F. Katz
    Abstract: This paper examines the evolution of the Mexican-born workforce in the United States using data drawn from the decennial U.S. Census throughout the entire 20th century. It is well known that there has been a rapid rise in Mexican immigration to the United States in recent years. Interestingly, the share of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. workforce declined steadily beginning in the 1920s before beginning to rise in the 1960s. It was not until 1980 that the relative number of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. workforce was at the 1920 level. The paper examines the trends in the relative skills and economic performance of Mexican immigrants, and contrasts this evolution with that experienced by other immigrants arriving in the United States during the period. The paper also examines the costs and benefits of this influx by examining how the Mexican influx has altered economic opportunities in the most affected labor markets and by discussing how the relative prices of goods and services produced by Mexican immigrants may have changed over time.
    JEL: J1 J6
    Date: 2005–04
  6. By: Richard B. Freeman
    Abstract: The debate over the influence of labour market flexibility on performance is unlikely to be settled by additional studies using aggregate data and making cross-country comparisons. While this approach holds little promise, micro-analysis of workers and firms and increased use of experimental methods represent a path forward. Steps along this path could help end the current 'lawyer's case' empiricism in which priors dominate evidence.
    JEL: J0
    Date: 2005–05
  7. By: Jonathan Gruber; David Wise
    Abstract: This is the introduction to and summary of Phase III of an international research project to study the relationship between social security provisions and retirement. The project relies on the work of a large group of economists in 12 countries who conduct the analysis for each of their countries. The first phase described the retirement incentives inherent in plan provisions and documented the strong relationship across countries between social security incentives to retire and the proportion of older persons out of the labor force. The second phase illustrated the large effects that changing plan provisions would have on the labor force participation of older workers. This third phase shows the consequent fiscal implications that extending labor force participation would have on net program costs -- reduced government social security benefit payments less increased government tax revenues. The findings are conveyed by simulating the implications of illustrative reforms. One reform increases benefit eligibility ages by three years. Another illustrative reform reduces actuarially benefits received before the normal retirement age. A common reform prescribes the same provisions in each country. The financial implications of the illustrative reforms are very large in many instances, often as much as 20 to 40 percent of current program costs. The savings amount to as much a 1 percent or more of country GDP. The results make clear that reforms like those considered in this volume can have very large fiscal implications for the cost of social security benefits as well as for government revenues engendered by changes in the labor force participation of older workers.
    JEL: F0 H0
    Date: 2005–05
  8. By: Angus Deaton
    Abstract: In this essay, I review Robert Fogel's The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100 which is concerned with the past, present, and future of human health. Fogel's work places great emphasis on nutrition, not only for the history of health, but for explaining aspects of current health, not only in comparing poor and rich countries, but in thinking about rich countries now and in the future. I discuss Fogel's analysis alongside alternative interpretations that place greater emphasis on the historical role of public health, and on the current and future role of improvements in medical technology.
    JEL: I1 N3
    Date: 2005–05

This nep-ltv issue is ©2005 by Maximo Rossi. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.