Did Workers Pay for the Passage of Workers' Compensation Laws?
Market responses to legislative reforms often mitigate the expected gains that reformers promise in legislation. Contemporaries hailed workers' compensation as a boon to workers because it raised the amount of post-accident compensation paid to injured workers. Despite the large gains to workers, employers often supported the legislation. Analysis of several wage samples from the early 1900s shows that employers were able to pass a significant part of the added costs of higher post-accident compensation onto some workers in the form of reductions in wages. The size of the wage offsets, however, were smaller for union workers.
Published: Quarterly Journal of Economics, 110 (August 1995) pp 713-742.