nep-ltv New Economics Papers
on Unemployment, Inequality and Poverty
Issue of 2016‒06‒25
four papers chosen by
Maximo Rossi
Universidad de la República

  1. How Does Declining Unionism Affect the American Middle Class and Intergenerational Mobility? By Freeman, Richard Barry; Han, Eunice; Madland, David; Duke, Brendan
  2. Job Creation in a Multi-Sector Labor Market Model for Developing Economies By Basu, Arnab K.; Chau, Nancy; Fields, Gary S.; Kanbur, Ravi
  3. The Effects of Wage Contracts on Workplace Misbehaviors: Evidence from a Call Center Natural Field Experiment By Jeffrey A. Flory; Andreas Leibbrandt; John A. List
  4. Inequality – Worldwide Trends and Current Debates By Stephan Klasen; Nathalie Scholl; Rahul Lahoti; Sophie Ochmann; Sebastian Vollmer

  1. By: Freeman, Richard Barry; Han, Eunice; Madland, David; Duke, Brendan
    Abstract: This paper examines unionism’s relationship to the size of the middle class and its relationship to intergenerational mobility. Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) 1985 and 2011 files are used to examine the change in the share of workers in a middle-income group (defined by persons having incomes within 50 percent of the median) and use a shift-share decomposition to explore how the decline of unionism contributes to the shrinking middle class. The files are also used to investigate the correlation between parents’ union status and the incomes of their children. Additionally, federal income tax data is used to examine the geographical correlation between union density and intergenerational mobility. Findings include that union workers are disproportionately in the middle-income group or above, and some reach middle-income status due to the union wage premium; the offspring of union parents have higher incomes than the offspring of otherwise comparable non-union parents, especially when the parents are low-skilled; and offspring from communities with higher union density have higher average incomes relative to their parents compared to offspring from communities with lower union density. These findings show a strong, though not necessarily causal, link between unions, the middle class, and intergenerational mobility.
    Date: 2016
  2. By: Basu, Arnab K. (Cornell University); Chau, Nancy (Cornell University); Fields, Gary S. (Cornell University); Kanbur, Ravi (Cornell University)
    Abstract: This paper proposes an overlapping generations multi‐sector model of the labor market for developing countries with three heterogeneities – heterogeneity within self‐employment, heterogeneity in ability, and heterogeneity in age. We revisit an iconic paradox in a class of multi‐sector labor market models in which the creation of high‐wage employment exacerbates unemployment. Our richer setting allows for generational differences in the motivations for job search to be reflected in two distinct inverted U‐shaped relationships between unemployment and high‐wage employment, one for youth and a different one for adults. In turn, the relationship between overall unemployment and high‐wage employment is shown to be non‐monotonic and multi‐peaked. The model also sheds light on the implications of increasing high‐wage employment on self‐employed workers, who make up most of the world's poor. Non‐monotonicity in unemployment notwithstanding, increasing high‐wage employment has an unambiguous positive impact on high‐paying self‐employment, and an unambiguous negative impact on free‐entry (low‐wage) self‐employment.
    Keywords: multisector labor market, overlapping generations, poverty reduction, Harris‐Todaro model
    JEL: O17 I32
    Date: 2016–05
  3. By: Jeffrey A. Flory; Andreas Leibbrandt; John A. List
    Abstract: Workplace misbehaviors are often governed by explicit monitoring and strict punishment. Such enforcement activities can serve to lessen worker productivity and harm worker morale. We take a different approach to curbing worker misbehavior—bonuses. Examining more than 6500 donor phone calls across more than 80 workers, we use a natural field experiment to investigate how different wage contracts influence workers’ propensity to cheat and sabotage one another. Our findings show that even though standard relative performance pay contracts, relative to a fixed wage scheme, increase productivity, they have a dark side: they cause considerable cheating and sabotage of co-workers. Yet, even in such environments, by including an unexpected bonus, the employer can substantially curb worker misbehavior. In this manner, our findings reveal how employers can effectively leverage bonuses to eliminate undesired behaviors induced by performance pay contracts.
    JEL: C9 C93 J3 J41
    Date: 2016–06
  4. By: Stephan Klasen (Georg-August University Göttingen); Nathalie Scholl (Georg-August University Göttingen); Rahul Lahoti (Georg-August University Göttingen); Sophie Ochmann (Georg-August University Göttingen); Sebastian Vollmer (Georg-August University Göttingen)
    Abstract: Income inequality has been rising in many developing countries since the 1980s. At the same time, global income inequality has been roughly stable (or even falling slightly) and there is great heterogeneity in within-country inequality trends across countries and regions. Non-income inequality tends to have fallen, both within and between countries. There is no empirical evidence that rising inequality is an inevitable consequence of economic growth; similarly, the evidence of the impact of changes in inequality on growth is also inconclusive, although higher levels of inequality appear to be harmful for subsequent development. At the same time, reducing inequality is seen as important to promote greater fairness as well as to speed up poverty reduction. To study trends in inequality, we use a framework where income inequality is related to inequality in assets (land, labor, human capital, and physical capital), return to these assets, inequality in private transfers, and redistribution by the state. Trends in inequality are tied to these different drivers which differ greatly by country and over time. This framework also generates opportunities for policy intervention to tackle inequality. This will, however, depend greatly on the country. As a result, it is useful to start a policy framework with an inequality diagnostics to identify the most important drivers of levels and changes in inequality in a particular country; this is also an activity where bilateral development partners can play an important supporting role. When it comes to particular policy issues, some of the issues that have been discussed for a long time remain highly relevant, including land reform (where land is still an important asset), pro-poor educational policies, rural infrastructure, and a focus on improving agricultural productivity of poor farmers. At the same time, increasing the redistributive role of the state through a higher tax take (to be achieved via broadening the tax base, increasing tax compliance, increase resource taxes), and increasing pro-poor social transfers. On the international dimension, there is now a greater emphasis on assisting developing countries with fighting tax evasion and tax avoidance of firms and individuals. As a single bilateral donor, it is not easy to have a significant impact on inequality and an explicit aid program on inequality reduction might also be politically contentious. In principle, the potential is there for significantly affecting inequality via technical cooperation assisting states (and potentially non-state actors) in implementing an inequality-reducing agenda. Budget support and other systemic approaches can of course also support an overall agenda of reducing inequality, as can investment projects if they focus on the policy-areas for inequality reduction outlined here.
    Date: 2016–06–14

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