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

How does remote work affect productivity and how productive are workers who choose remote jobs? We decompose these effects using data from the call-centers of a US Fortune 500 retailer. The retailer employed both remote and on-site workers prior to Covid-19 and went entirely remote during the lockdown. In a difference-in-difference design around the Covid-19 lockdown, formerly on-site workers became 6-10% more productive after going remote relative to already-remote workers. However, during the lockdown, workers who originally chose remote jobs answered 18-21% fewer calls than those who originally chose on-site ones, indicating adverse selection into remote work. Our results suggest that adverse selection made remote work the exception rather than the rule in call-center jobs prior to the pandemic. We discuss implications of the Covid-19 lockdown for adverse selection and the consequent future of remote work.

Marginal Revolution The Economist The Financial Times BBC

Tripping Through Hoops: The Effect of Violating Compulsory Government Procedures

with Helen Ho

Millions of Americans must navigate complex government procedures under the threat of punishment. Violating these requirements can lead to poverty traps or deepening legal system involvement. We use a field experiment to estimate the effect of failing to appear for court on subsequent legal contact. The treatments reduce failure to appear by 39 percent. Using treatment assignment to identify the causal impact of minor procedural violations, we find no effect on arrests. However, for lower-level cases, violations increase fines and fees paid by 60 percent or $80, equivalent to a high-interest loan, showing that minor procedural violations can be costly.

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.

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