Workers & Productivity Research

Unemployment Insurance as a Worker Indiscipline Device? Evidence from Scanner Data

(American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, forthcoming, with Lester Lusher and Geoffrey Schnorr, IZA Discussion Paper)

Abstract: We provide causal evidence of an ex ante moral hazard effect of Unemployment Insurance (UI) by matching plausibly exogenous changes in UI benefit duration across state-weeks during the Great Recession to high-frequency productivity measures from individual supermarket cashiers. Estimating models with date and cashier-register fixed effects, we identify a modest but statistically significant negative relationship between UI benefits and worker productivity. This effect is strongest for more experienced and less productive cashiers, for whom UI expansions are especially relevant. Additional analyses from the American Time Use Survey reveal a similar increase in shirking during periods with increased UI benefit durations.


Effects of Peer Comparisons on Low-promotability Tasks: Evidence from a University Field Experiment

(Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, with Sofia B. Villas-Boas and Elizabeth Deakin)

Abstract: Governance—the way rules are set and implemented—in many institutions is sustained through the service of groups of individuals, performing low-promotability tasks. For instance, the success of not-for-profit professional societies, civic organizations, and public universities depends on the willingness of members and employees to serve in governance. Typically service is requested by annual calls to serve. We implement and analyze a field experiment at a large public university using a randomized experimental design, to investigate whether responses to calls to serve are affected by revealing a department’s service rankings among its peer departments. We find that revealing a service ranking in the lowest quartile leads to significantly higher response rates than disclosing a median and higher-than-median ranking. Second, beyond informing department heads of their departments’ service rank, directly informing individual faculty members does not have an additional effect on response rates. Third, we show that the treatment effects in the lowest serving quartile are driven by female faculty responses, even though female faculty members were no more likely than their male peers to respond to serve before the experiment. If taking on such tasks is detrimental to promotion, while important for the overall institution, this has implications for the faculty careers of women and men. We discuss potential mechanisms behind the results; formally testing these mechanisms is an area for future research.