Published and Accepted Work
Why Do Women Earn Less Than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operatorswith Valentin BolotnyyCoverage: The Wall Street Journal • Marginal Revolution • Society of Human Resources • Quartz
Journal of Labor Economics 40(2), 2021
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.
Tripping Through Hoops: The Effect of Violating Compulsory Government Procedures with Helen Ho Coverage: Probable Causation Podcast
Conditionally accepted at the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy
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.
Firm Frictions and The Payoffs of Higher Pay: Labor Supply and Productivity Responses to a Voluntary Minimum Wagewith Emma Harrington[ Revised Sept 2022 • Expands and subsumes "The Payoffs of Higher Pay" (2021) ] Coverage: The Wall Street Journal • Marginal Revolution
What are the returns to higher pay for firms — and how much can these returns offset the effects of firms’ monopsony power? We study a Fortune 500 firm’s voluntary company-wide $15/hour minimum wage, which was had more bite in some of the firm’s warehouses than others. In a continuous difference-in-differences design, we find that a $1/hour increase in pay halves worker departures (elasticity=9.6). This finite labor-supply response suggests that the firm had some monopsony power even in the thick labor markets around logistics hubs. Yet a $1/hour pay bump increases objective measures of worker productivity by 5.9% (elasticity=1.06). Our estimates indicate that productivity gains fully defrayed increased labor costs. Though workers’ productivity response could offset the firm’s monopsony power, internal documents suggest that this major firm did not fully account for the potential payoffs of higher pay when setting wages.
"Working" Remotely? Selection, Treatment, and Market Provision of Remote Workwith Emma Harrington[ Under Revision ]Coverage: Marginal Revolution • The Economist • The Financial Times • BBC
Why was remote work so rare prior to Covid-19’s lockdown? One possibility is that working remotely reduces productivity. Another is that remote work attracts unobservably less productive workers. In our setting of call-center workers at a Fortune 500 retailer, two natural experiments reveal positive productivity effects of remote work. When Covid-19 closed down the retailer’s on-site call-centers, a difference-in-difference design suggests the transition from on-site to remote work increased the productivity of formerly on-site workers by 8% to 10% relative to their already remote peers. Similarly, when previously on-site workers took up opportunities to go remote in 2018-2019, their productivity rose by 7%. These two natural experiments also reveal negative selection into remote work. While all workers were remote due to Covid-19, those who were hired into remote jobs were 12% less productive than those hired into on-site jobs. Extending remote opportunities to on-site workers similarly attracts less productive workers to on-site jobs. Our model allows us to characterize the counterfactual in which remote workers were not adversely selected. Without adverse selection, the retailer would have hired 57% more remote workers and worker surplus from remote work would have been 32% greater. Given the central role of selection, Covid-19’s effect on remote work will persist if the lockdown disproportionately causes more productive workers to be willing to work remotely.
The Power of Proximity: Office Interactions Affect Online Feedback and Quits, Especially for Women and Young Workerwith Emma Harrington and Amanda Pallais
In an increasingly digital world, how much does sitting near coworkers matter? And which workers are most affected by proximity? We study the online interactions and quit decisions of software engineers at a Fortune 500 firm. When offices were open, engineers who sat in the same building as all their teammates received 21 percent more online feedback on their code than engineers with distant teammates. After offices closed for COVID-19, this advantage shrank by 15 percentage points. We find coworkers’ online interactions complement, rather than substitute for, face-to-face contact so sitting near coworkers facilitates both online and in-person learning. Losing proximity particularly reduces online feedback given to young engineers and female engineers. Young engineers and female engineers are also more likely to quit the firm when they lose proximity to coworkers. Even Pre-COVID, gaining one distant teammate reduced online feedback among coworkers sitting together, suggesting that remote-work policies impact even workers who choose to go into the office.