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CHAPTER 5. “It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.” -Muhammad Ali. Introduction. The labor market is not characterized by a single wage: workers differ and jobs differ. Adam Smith first proposed the idea that job characteristics influence wages.

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chapter 5
CHAPTER 5

“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

-Muhammad Ali

introduction
Introduction

The labor market is not characterized by a single wage: workers differ and jobs differ.

Adam Smith first proposed the idea that job characteristics influence wages.

Compensating wage differentials arise to reflect differing nonwage characteristics of jobs.

Workers have heterogeneous preferences and firms offer various working conditions.

the market for risky jobs
The Market for Risky Jobs

Workers care about whether their job is relatively safe or risky.

Indifference curves can illustrate a worker’s preferences between wages and risk of workplace injury.

Firms may offer a relatively risky work environment because it is less expensive to pay higher wages than it is to make the workplace safer.

indifference curves relating the wage and the probability of injury
Indifference Curves Relating the Wage and the Probability of Injury

U2

W

U1

Dw

U0

P

W1

Wage

The worker earns a wage of W1and gets utility level U1 if she chooses the safe job. She would prefer the safe job if the risky job paid a wage of Wbut would prefer the risky job if that job paid a wage of W2. The worker is indifferent between the two jobs if the risky job pays W2. The worker’s reservation price is then given by ΔW = W2 – W1.

1

0

Probability of Injury

determining the market compensating differential
Determining the Market Compensating Differential

The supply of labor to risky jobs slopes up because as the wage gap between the risky job and the safe job increases, more and more workers are willing to work in the risky job. The demand curve slopes down because fewer firms will offer risky working conditions if risky firms have to offer high wages to attract workers. The market compensation differential equates supply and demand, and gives the “bribe” required to attract the last worker hired by risky firms.

w1 - w0

S

^

P

(w1 -w0)*

Dw^ MIN

D

Number of Workers in Risky Job

E*

market equilibrium when some workers prefer risky jobs
Market Equilibrium when Some Workers Prefer Risky Jobs

w1- w0

S

D

E*

0

N

Number of Workers in Risky Job

(w1-w0)*

P

Dw^ MIN

If some workers like to work in risky jobs (i.e., they are willing to pay for the right to be injured) and if the demand for such workers is small, then the market compensating differential is negative. At point P, where supply equals demand, workers employed in risky jobs earn less than workers employed in safe jobs.

hedonic wage theory
Hedonic Wage Theory

Workers maximize utility by choosing wage-risk combinations that offer them the greatest utility.

Isoprofit curves are upward sloping because the production of safety is costly.

Isoprofit curves are concave because the production of higher levels of safety is increasingly costly (rising marginal cost).

Hedonic wage functions reflect the relationship between wages and various job characteristics, including risk of workplace injury or death.

indifference curves for three types of workers
Indifference Curves for Three Types of Workers

Wage

UC

UB

UA

Probability of Injury

Different workers have different preferences for risk. Worker A is very risk-averse. Worker C does not mind risk very much at all. Worker B is between the two.

isoprofit curves
Isoprofit Curves

Wage

P

p0

Q

p1

R

r*

Probability of Injury

An isoprofit curve gives all the risk-wage combinations that yield the same profits. Because it is costly to produce safety, a firm offering risk level ρ* can make the workplace safer only if it reduces wages (while keeping profits constant), so that the isoprofit curve is upward sloping. Note: higher isoprofit curves yield lower profits.

the hedonic wage function
The Hedonic Wage Function

Wage

UC

UB

PC

Hedonic Wage Function

PB

UA

pZ

PA

pY

pX

Probability of Injury

Different firms have different isoprofit curves and different workers have different indifference curves. The labor market marries workers who dislike risk (such as worker A) with firms that find it easy to provide a safe environment (like firm X); and workers who do not mind risk very much (worker C) with firms that find it difficult to provide a safe environment (firm Z). The observed relationship between wages and job characteristics is called a hedonic wage function.

policy application how much is a life worth
Policy Application: How Much is a Life Worth?

Studies report a positive relationship between wages and work hazards.

The statistical value of life is the amount that workers are collectively willing to pay to reduce the likelihood that one of them will suffer a fatal injury in a given year on the job.

The empirical evidence is ambiguous on the estimates of the value of a life.

slide12

Calculating the Value of Saving a Life (VSL)

wx = annual earnings in Firm X

wy = annual earnings in Firm Y

The annual probabilities of a fatal injury in Firm X and in Firm Y are πx and πy, respectively

If X is a safe job and Y is the risky job, then:

VSL = (wy – wx) / (πy – πx)

Policy Application: How Much is a Life Worth?

policy application safety and health regulation
Policy Application:Safety and Health Regulation

OSHA is charged with the protection and health of the American labor force.

OSHA sets regulations that are aimed at reducing risks in the work environment.

Mandated standards reduce the utility of workers and the profits of firms.

Safety regulations can improve workers’ welfare as long as workers consistently underestimate the true risks.

impact of osha regulation on wage profits and utility
Impact of OSHA Regulation on Wage, Profits, and Utility

U*

U

Wage



Hedonic Wage Function

p*

P

w*

Q

w

r*

r*

Probability of Injury

A worker maximizes utility by choosing the job at point P, which pays a wage of w* and offers a probability of injury of ρ*. The government prohibits firms from offering a probability of injury higher than , shifting both the worker and the firm to point Q. As a result, the worker earns a lower wage and receives less utility (from U* to U), and the firm earns lower profits (from * to ).

impact of osha regulations when workers misperceive risks
Impact of OSHA Regulations when Workers Misperceive Risks

Wage

U0

U

U*

Hedonic Wage Function

w*

r0

r*



Probability of Injury

Workers earn a wage of w* and incorrectly believe that their probability of injury is only ρ0. In fact, their probability of injury is ρ*. The government can mandate that firms do not offer a probability of injury higher than , making the uninformed workers better off (that is, increasing their actual utility from U* to U).

compensating differentials and job amenities
Compensating Differentials and Job Amenities

Desirable job characteristics are associated with low wage rates.

Undesirable job characteristics are associated with high wage rates.

The evidence is not clear on the link between job (dis-)amenities and wage differentials, except for the risk of death.

Examples of amenities: job security, predictability of layoffs, work schedules, work hours, safety, etc.

layoffs and compensating differentials
Layoffs and Compensating Differentials

Income

Wage = w0

Wage = w1

P

R

U0

U

Q

Hours of Leisure

T

L0

L1

Hours of Work

h0

0

h1

At point P, a person maximizes utility by working h0 hours at a wage of w0 dollars. An alternative job offers the worker a seasonal schedule, where she receives the same wage but works only h1 hours. The worker is worse off in the seasonal job (her utility declines from U0 to U utils). If the seasonal job is to attract any workers, the job must raise the wage to (w1) so that workers will be indifferent between the two jobs.

health benefits and compensating differentials
Health Benefits and Compensating Differentials

Wage

Q*

P

wA

UB*

UA

Q

wB

Isoprofitp*

UB

Isoprofitp0

Health benefits ($)

HB

Workers A and Bcan choose among the various compensation packages illustrated by iso-profit curve 0. Worker A chooses a package with the higher wage wAand no health insurance benefits. Worker B chooses a package with the lower wage wB and health benefits HB. The observed data identify the trade-off between health benefits and wages. In contrast, workers B and B* have different earnings potential, so their job packages lie on different iso-profit curves. Their choices generate a positive correlation between wages and health benefits. The observed data do not identify the trade-off between wages and health benefits.