Department of Economics
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720
NBER Program Affiliations:
NBER Affiliation: Faculty Research Fellow
Institutional Affiliation: University of California at Berkeley
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|May 2019||Scabs: The Social Suppression of Labor Supply|
with Emily Breza, Nandita Krishnaswamy: w25880
Social norms have the potential to alter the functioning of economic markets. We test whether norms shape the aggregate labor supply curve by preventing workers from supplying labor at wage cuts—leading decentralized individuals to implicitly behave as a cartel to maintain wage floors in their local labor markets. We partner with 183 existing employers, who offer jobs to 502 workers in informal spot labor markets in India. Unemployed workers are privately willing to accept jobs below the prevailing wage, but rarely do so when this choice is observable to other workers. In contrast, social observability does not affect labor supply at the prevailing wage. Workers give up 49% of average weekly earnings to avoid being seen as breaking the social norm. In addition, workers pay to punish anonym...
|August 2016||The Morale Effects of Pay Inequality|
with Emily Breza, Yogita Shamdasani: w22491
The idea that worker utility is affected by co-worker wages has potentially broad labor market implications. In a month-long experiment with Indian manufacturing workers, we randomize whether co-workers within production units receive the same flat daily wage or different wages (according to baseline productivity rank). For a given absolute wage, pay inequality reduces output and attendance by 0.24 standard deviations and 12%, respectively. These effects strengthen in later weeks. Pay disparity also lowers co-workers’ ability to cooperate in their self-interest. However, when workers can clearly observe productivity differences, pay inequality has no discernible effect on output, attendance, or group cohesion.
Published: Emily Breza & Supreet Kaur & Yogita Shamdasani, 2018. "The Morale Effects of Pay Inequality*," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol 133(2), pages 611-663. citation courtesy of
|December 2014||Nominal Wage Rigidity in Village Labor Markets|
This paper tests for downward nominal wage rigidity by examining transitory shifts in labor demand, generated by rainfall shocks, in 600 Indian districts from 1956-2009. Nominal wages rise in response to positive shocks but do not fall during droughts. In addition, transitory positive shocks generate ratcheting: after they have dissipated, nominal wages do not adjust back down. This ratcheting effect generates a 9% reduction in employment levels. Inflation enables downward real wage adjustments both during droughts and after positive shocks. Survey evidence suggests that workers and employers believe that nominal wage cuts are unfair and lead to effort reductions.