Working papers

We study the welfare implications of employment protection for older workers, exploiting recent bans on mandatory retirement across Canadian provinces. Using linked employer-employee tax data, we show that the bans cause large and similar reductions in job separation rates and retirement hazards at age 65, with further reductions at higher ages. The effects vary substantially across industries and firms, and around two-fifths of the adjustments occur between ban announcement and implementation dates. We find no evidence that the demand for older workers falls, but the welfare effects are mediated by spillovers on savings behavior, workplace injuries, and spousal retirement timing.

Longer careers: A barrier to hiring and coworker advancement?

(submitted, with Irene Ferrari and Jan Kabátek)

Government policies are encouraging older workers to delay retirement, which may curb younger workers’ career advancement. We study a Dutch reform that raised the retirement age by 13 months and nearly tripled employment at age 66. Using monthly linked employer-employee data, we show that affected firms delay and decrease replacement hiring, and coworkers’ earnings fall via reductions in hours worked, wages, and promotions. Combined, the hiring and coworker spillovers offset most of the additional hours worked by older workers, disproportionately affect career advancement for younger workers and women, and considerably increase the policy’s ratio of welfare costs to fiscal savings.

Published/accepted papers

Shaping the habits of teen drivers

(forthcoming, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy)
(with Timothy J. Moore)

Media: NBER Digest, The Conversation

We show that a targeted law can modify teens’ risky behavior. We examine the effects of an Australian intervention banning first-year drivers from driving late at night with multiple peers, which had accounted for one-fifth of their traffic fatalities. Using data on individual drivers linked to crash outcomes, we find the reform more than halves targeted crashes, casualties and deaths. There are large positive spillovers through lower crashes earlier in the evening and beyond the first year, suggesting broad and persistent declines in high-risk driving. Overall, the targeted intervention delivers gains comparable to harsher restrictions that delay teen driving.

Income and saving responses to tax incentives for private retirement savings

(Journal of Public Economics, 2022)

(with Marc K. Chan, Cain Polidano and Ha Vu)
Media: Aus Tax Policy, Melbourne Institute

Many governments offer tax concessions for retirement contributions. In this paper, we show that income responses are crucial for understanding their effectiveness in raising retirement savings and alleviating the fiscal pressures of population aging. Using tax register data, we study large changes in caps on tax-favored contributions to individual retirement accounts in Australia. We find that higher caps increase retirement contributions considerably, with around two-thirds of this response financed by increases in earned income. The resulting gain in income tax revenue offsets the fiscal loss from tax concessions, highlighting the importance of taking income and labor supply responses into account.

As governments try to contain rising expenditure on retirement pensions by increasing eligibility ages, there are concerns that such reforms disproportionately affect poorer households. Using detailed longitudinal data, I examine this trade-off in the context of an Australian reform that increased women’s pension-eligibility age from 60 to 65. While this reform significantly reduced government spending on women at affected ages, the negative effects on household incomes were concentrated among poorer households. These unequal impacts meant that the reform temporarily increased relative poverty rates among affected women by around 4 percentage points and inequality measures by 6 to 19 percent.

I revisit the labor supply effects of a major Australian reform that increased women’s pension age from 60 to 65. Atalay and Barrett (RESTAT 2015) studied these effects using repeated household surveys and a differences-in-differences design in which male cohorts form the comparison group. They estimate that the reform increased female labor force participation by 12 percentage points. Using earlier data, I show that the parallel-trends assumption did not hold before the reform because of a strong female-specific trend in participation rates across the relevant cohorts. Accounting for this trend, the estimated effect on female participation falls by two-thirds and becomes statistically insignificant at conventional levels.