Intertemporal substitution and household production in labour supply

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 26 October 2004

Working Paper No. 234
By Guillermo Felices and David Tinsley

The demands on a person’s time vary over their working life, so that the years in which they might be expected to devote most time to work may also be the period when other commitments, such as bringing up children, are most pressing. Estimates of the intertemporal labour supply elasticity that do not take this possibility into account are likely to be biased. Recent research that uses US data from three time-use surveys has found evidence for a large downward bias to the labour supply elasticity. This paper uses a large UK survey to test this hypothesis. It finds convincing evidence for a similar downward bias in estimates of the UK labour supply elasticity for males. The analysis is extended by differentiating by sex, marital status, skill and business cycle. The bias appears in every case, but is less evident for married men. The labour supply elasticity for single women is, interestingly, similar to that for single men.

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