Does Poverty Change Labor Supply? Evidence from Multiple Income Effects and 115,579 Bags
The income elasticity of labor supply is a central parameter of many economic models. We test how labor supply and effort in northern Ghana respond to exogenous changes in income and wages using a randomized evaluation of a multi-faceted grant program combined with a bag-making operation. We find that recipients of the grant program increase, rather than reduce, their supply of labor. We argue that simple models with either labor or capital market frictions are not sufficient to explain the results, whereas a model that allows for a positive psychological productivity effect from higher income does fit our findings.
Approval from the Yale University Human Subjects Committee, IRB 0705002656, 1002006308, 1006007026, and 1011007628; and from the Innovations for Poverty Action Human Subjects Committee, IRB Protocol 19.08January-002, 09December-003, 59.10June-002,and 10November-003.494. Thanks to the Ford Foundation, and 3ie for funding. Thanks to Nathan Barker, Caton Brewster, Abubakari Bukari, David Bullon Patton, Sébastien Fontenay, Angela Garcia, Yann Guy, Samantha Horn, Sana Khan, Hideto Koizumi, Matthew Lowes, Elizabeth Naah, Michael Polansky, Elana Safran, Sneha Stephen, Rachel Strohm, and Stefan Vedder for outstanding research assistance and project management, and in particular Bram Thuysbaert for collaboration. The authors would like to thank the leadership and staff at Presbyterian Agricultural Services (PAS) for their partnership. Thanks to Frank DeGiovanni of the Ford Foundation, Syed Hashemi of BRAC University, and Aude de Montesquiou and Alexia Latortue of CGAP for their support and encouragement of the research. No authors have any real or apparent conflicts of interest, except Karlan is on the Board of Directors of Innovations for Poverty Action, which participated in oversight of the implementation. All data and code will be available upon publication at the IPA Dataverse (doi pending). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.