NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

No Pain, No Gain: The Effects of Exports on Effort, Injury, and Illness

David Hummels, Jakob Munch, Chong Xiang

NBER Working Paper No. 22365
Issued in July 2016
NBER Program(s):HE, ITI, LS

Increased job effort can raise productivity and income but put workers at increased risk of illness and injury. We combine Danish data on individuals’ health with Danish matched worker-firm data to understand how rising exports affect individual workers’ effort, injury, and illness. We find that when firm exports rise for exogenous reasons: 1. Workers work longer hours and take fewer sick-leave days; 2. Workers have higher rates of injury, both overall and correcting for hours worked; and 3. Women have higher sickness rates. For example, a 10% exogenous increase in exports increases women’s rates of injury by 6.4%, and hospitalizations due to heart attacks or strokes by 15%. Finally, we develop a novel framework to calculate the marginal dis-utility of any non-fatal disease, such as heart attacks, and to aggregate across multiple types of sickness conditions and injury to compute the total utility loss. While the ex-ante utility loss for the average worker is small relative to the wage gain from rising exports, the ex-post utility loss is much larger for those who actually get injured or sick.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22365

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