Does identity affect labor supply?

Does identity—one’s concept of self—influence economic behavior in the labor market? I investigate this question in rural India, focusing on the effect of caste identity on labor supply. In a field experiment, casual laborers belonging to different castes choose whether to take up various real job offers. All offers involve working on a default manufacturing task and an additional task. The additional task changes across offers, is performed in private, and differs in its association with specific castes. Workers’ average take-up rate of offers is 23 percentage points lower if offers involve working on tasks that are associated with castes other than their own. This gap increases to 47 pp if the castes associated with the relevant offers rank lower than workers’ own in the caste hierarchy. Responses to job offers are invariant to whether or not workers’ choices are publicized, suggesting that the role of identity itself—rather than social image—is paramount. Using a supplementary experiment, I show that 43% of workers refuse to spend ten minutes working on tasks associated with other castes, even when offered ten times their daily wage. This paper’s findings indicate that identity may be an important constraint on labor supply, contributing to misallocation of talent in the economy.

The bold emphasis is added by me.  That is from a job market paper by Suanna Oh, who is on the job market from Columbia.

Via Shruti.


And the other 57% will become what? And when the 43% see the others, they will do what?

This stuff probably isn't even wrong. :-)

At the risk of stating the obvious: classism and hierarchal biases are deeply ingrained in people around the world. More arguably it’s politically expedient because it reifies the exploitation of each class by another.

The largest misallocation is low IQ people entitled to leadership positions.

I hear Jared is going down to build the wall now.

And why don't we call it a fence now? Needless fealty to a fool.

Isn't this finding basically that people won't take jobs that violate their religion or other moral intuitions? Not sure why the author chooses to use the term "identity", which is a much broader concept than one's religion or even generalized belief system. One's religious beliefs may be part of one's identity, but not all aspects of one's identity are part of one's religious, or even non-religious, beliefs.

Presumably because although this specific research was about caste, it's part of a larger set of research about ... call it identity, call it personal preferences, call it whatever. There are a number of people who refuse to work for gun manufacturers. Some bakeries refuse to make cakes for gay customers. Some people refuse to work for companies that use animal parts. Decades ago Robert Frank (the Cornell economist, not one of the many other Robert Franks) found that women were more likely to be reluctant to work in certain industries or at certain jobs than men were; this is potentially a factor in wage differentials.

The larger research program is about more than just religion. This paper, though focusing on caste, is presumably part of that larger research program.

Is there a signal here that could highlight gender pay gap drivers? Do woman self select when assessing opportunities? Very valuable insight if true and key to addressing the issue.

This is obviously an extreme case, but I think we've seen it here in the US with worker retraining as well. Even the offer of retraining hangs up when the worker has a strong desire to stick with an identity.

I knew a guy who was a motorcycle cop, was in a crash (broke both wrists, healed in time), and offered early retirement. For some dumb reason they trained him to be a Microsoft network engineer. How did they think that was going to work? A guy who was used to action being outdoors all day was going to sit in an office and do tech support?

Anyway, he went into real estate development and did fine.

Labor is not fungible.

When did Sociology colonize the Economics department?

They need an indigenous remake of Trading Places.

"Identity economics" thus performs at least as poorly as "identity politics"?

Unquestionably identity does. See, Akerlof's book on Identity Economics.

I was wondering on whether it does in reverse as well: do people take low paying jobs because it signals their caste or status: do Harvard graduates go to low paying NGO jobs; do preachers accept lower pay; etc.

Quick. We've got to get these caste-obsessed, alien peoples into America in the largest numbers possible.

And what about transgenders?

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