NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records

Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Tore Olsen, Luigi Pistaferri

NBER Working Paper No. 15617
Issued in December 2009
NBER Program(s):   AG   EFG   LS   PE

We show that the effects of taxes on labor supply are shaped by interactions between adjustment costs for workers and hours constraints set by firms. We develop a model in which firms post job offers characterized by an hours requirement and workers pay search costs to find jobs. In this model, micro elasticities are smaller than macro elasticities because they do not account for adjustment costs and firm responses. We present evidence supporting three predictions of the model by analyzing bunching at kinks using the universe of tax records in Denmark. First, larger kinks generate larger taxable income elasticities because they are more likely to overcome search costs. Second, kinks that apply to a larger group of workers generate larger elasticities because they induce changes in hours constraints. Third, firms tailor job offers to match workers’ aggregate tax preferences in equilibrium. Calibrating our model to match these empirical findings, we obtain a lower bound on the intensive-margin macro elasticity of 0.34, an order of magnitude larger than the estimates obtained using standard microeconometric methods for wage earners in our data.

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This paper was revised on December 5, 2011

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Published: Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2011. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 749-804.

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