Research

Publications

Female workers earn $0.89 for each male-worker dollar even in a unionized workplace where tasks, wages, and promotion schedules are identical for men and women by design. We use administrative timecard data on bus and train operators to show that the earnings gap can be explained by female operators taking, on average, 1.5 fewer hours of overtime and 1.3 more hours of unpaid time-off per week than male operators. Female operators, especially those who have dependents, pursue schedule conventionality, predictability, and controllability more than male operators. Analyzing two policy changes, we demonstrate that while reducing schedule controllability can reduce the earnings gap, it can also make workers—particularly female workers—worse off.

The Wall Street JournalMarginal RevolutionSociety of Human ResourcesQuartz

Working Papers

What do firms gain from raising pay for low-wage workers? Focusing on a Fortune 500 retailer, we estimate the impact of higher wages on employee productivity, turnover, and recruitment among warehouse and call-center workers, using the quasi-randomness induced by sticky wage-setting policies. We document finite wage elasticities of turnover (between −3.0 and −4.5) and recruitment (between 3.2 and 4.2), which suggest the firm has some wage-setting power. Yet, on the margin, raising wages by $1 increases productivity by more than $1, giving the firm an incentive to pay more, even if they could pay lower wages. These responses to pay emerge both in a setting where the firm discretely raised wages and in a setting where its wages remained constant while other firms raised pay. These effects reflect both changes in worker selection and changes in behavior of existing workers. We estimate that over half of the turnover reductions and productivity increases arise from changes in workers’ behavior. Finally, our estimates suggest considerable gender heterogeneity: Men’s turnover is more responsive to higher wages than women’s. But turnover effects are swamped by women’s stronger productivity response to higher pay. Together, the gender-specific elasticities suggest firms have an implicit incentive to set female wages above male wages and thus firm profits cannot explain the gender pay gap.

The Wall Street JournalMarginal Revolution


"Working" Remotely? Selection, Treatment, and Market Provision of Remote Work

with Emma Harrington

Why was remote work rare prior to Covid-19? We ask whether remote work reduces worker productivity or attracts less productive workers. Using data on call-center workers at a Fortune 500 online retailer, we find that remote work improves worker productivity but worsens worker selection. Prior to the pandemic, remote workers were less productive than on-site workers, answering 10% fewer calls. In contrast, we estimate positive causal effects of working remotely. When on-site workers opted into remote work in 2018-2019, their hourly call volumes rose by 7%. Similarly, when Covid-19 forced all on-site workers to work remotely, their call volume rose by 8-10% relative to their already remote peers, without compromising customer satisfaction. Given the positive treatment effect of remote work, remote workers' lower productivity implies negative selection --- an inference that is only magnified when we condition on worker observables. Consistent with their lower productivity, remote workers received lower wages. Yet, worker surplus from remote work averages $1.48/hr, based on our estimates of workers' demand for remote work. In the absence of adverse selection, the retailer would hire 57% more remote workers and worker surplus from remote work would rise by 32%. Our paper concludes that Covid-19's effect on remote work will persist if the pandemic changes worker selection: if more productive workers disproportionately become more willing to work remotely because of the pandemic, this shock will attenuate adverse selection and permanently increase the prevalence of remote work.

Marginal Revolution The Economist The Financial Times BBC


Behavioral Biases and Legal Compliance: Evidence from an RCT on Failure to Appear

with Helen Ho

Many defendants fail to appear (FTA) for court despite the prospect of legal consequences. In a field experiment, we compare the effectiveness of text message reminders to an intervention that combines reminders with personalized assistance. The treatments are equally effective, reducing FTA by 8 percentage points from a 21 percent baseline rate. However, personalized assistance facilitates greater take-up of court accommodations such as rescheduling and payment plans. For more serious cases, the treatments reduce arrests by two percentage points, implying FTAs have a large effect on arrests. For the least serious cases, an FTA has small effects on fines.

Probable Causation Podcast

Childcare and Parental Productivity in COVID-19

with Emma Harrington • Draft available upon request

How did school and daycare closures during the pandemic affect parents’ productivity in work-from-home? After the pandemic, how important will childcare be in shaping the productivity of parents who are working from home? We investigate these questions using a natural experiment in child-care availability during the pandemic. Since many schools and daycares operated at partial capacity, parents often lacked childcare on some days but not others within a given week. We conduct a survey of the Fortune 500 online retailer’s call-center workers to learn about their childcare schedules and link responses to administrative data on productivity and labor supply. These data map daily childcare provision to daily metrics of workers' inputs — such as minutes worked — and outputs — such as calls taken and customer satisfaction reviews. Preliminary results indicate each additional elementary or pre-school child at home reduces parental labor supply on the intensive margin by 13.6 minutes per day (95% CI = [7.47 minutes per day, 19.8 minutes per day]). These effects are larger for women and for younger children. Our results suggest that the school and daycare closures of the pandemic played a role in reducing women’s labor supply on the intensive margin. Further, support for childcare could be an important part of the economic recovery.

In Progress

Snowed In: School Closures and Family Violence

Smudges: Employment Signals in Criminal Background Checks

with Emma Harrington

Biased Beliefs in the Criminal Justice System

with Emma Harrington, William Murdock III, and Hannah Shaffer

Demography Papers

The Prevalence of Confirmed Maltreatment Among US Children, 2004 to 2011 • JAMA Pediatrics (2014)

with Christopher Wildeman, John Leventhal, Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Jane Waldfogel, and Hedwig Lee.

National Public RadioUS News and World ReportReuters


Cumulative Risks of Foster Care Placement by Age 18 for U.S. Children, 2000-2011 PLoS One (2014)

with Christopher Wildeman

Cited in Evicted


Cumulative Risks of Foster Care Placement for Danish Children • PLoS One (2014)

with Peter Fallesen and Christopher Wildeman


Mortality among White, Black, and Hispanic Male and Female State Prisoners, 2001–2009SSM Population Health (2016)

with Christopher Wildeman, E. Ann Carson, Daniela Golinelli, Margaret Noonan


State-Level Variation in the Imprisonment-Mortality Relationship, 2001-2010Demographic Research (2016)

with Christopher Wildeman, Margaret E. Noonan, Daniela Golinelli, and E. Ann Carson.


State-Level Variation in the Risk of Child Welfare System Contact among U.S. Children, 2008-2018 Working Paper

with Youngmin Yi, Frank Edwards, Hedwig Lee, John Leventhal, Jane Waldfogel, and Christopher Wildeman