A Contribution to the Empirics of Reservation Wages

59 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2014

See all articles by Alan B. Krueger

Alan B. Krueger

Princeton University - Industrial Relations Section; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Andreas I. Mueller

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Abstract

This paper provides evidence on the behavior of reservation wages over the spell of unemployment using high‐frequency longitudinal data. Using data from our survey of unemployed workers in New Jersey, where workers were interviewed each week for up to 24 weeks, we find that self‐reported reservation wages decline at a modest rate over the spell of unemployment, with point estimates ranging from 0.05 to 0.14 percent per week of unemployment. The decline in reservation wages is driven primarily by older individuals and those with personal savings at the start of the survey. The longitudinal nature of the data also allows us to test the relationship between job acceptance and the reservation wage and offered wage, where the reservation wage is measured from a previous interview to avoid bias due to cognitive dissonance. Job offers are more likely to be accepted if the offered wage exceeds the reservation wage, and the reservation wage has more predictive power in this regard than the pre‐displacement wage, suggesting the reservation wage contains useful information about workers' future decisions. In addition, there is a discrete rise in job acceptance when the offered wage exceeds the reservation wage. In comparison to a calibrated job search model, the reservation wage starts out too high and declines too slowly, on average, suggesting that many workers persistently misjudge their prospects or anchor their reservation wage on their previous wage.

Keywords: reservation wage, unemployment, unemployment duration, unemployment insurance

JEL Classification: J30, J64, J65

Suggested Citation

Krueger, Alan B. and Mueller, Andreas I., A Contribution to the Empirics of Reservation Wages. IZA Discussion Paper No. 7957. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2399776

Alan B. Krueger (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Industrial Relations Section ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-2098
United States
609-258-4046 (Phone)
609-258-2907 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Andreas I. Mueller

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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