Labour supply as a buffer: evidence from UK households

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 19 May 2011

Working Paper No. 426
By Andrew Benito and Jumana Saleheen 

This paper examines labour supply adjustment - both hours worked and participation decisions. The analysis focuses on the response of each to financial shocks, employing data from the British Household Panel Survey. Results suggest that employees whose financial situation deteriorates relative to what they expected, increase their labour supply in response. That response is consistent with models of self-insurance that incorporate labour supply flexibility. The shock reflects several factors including financial wealth and a partner’s employment situation. The response is significantly larger for those who change job, consistent with the importance of hours constraints within jobs. The propensity to participate in the labour market also appears to respond to the financial shock but that is somewhat less robust than the hours response.

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