The Value of Working Conditions in the United States and Implications for the Structure of Wages

by Nicole Maestas, Kathleen J. Mullen, David Powell, Till von Wachter, Jeffrey B. Wenger

Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.7 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

This paper documents variation in working conditions among workers in the United States, presents new estimates of how workers value these conditions, and assesses the impact of working conditions on estimates of the wage structure and inequality. We use evidence from a series of stated-preference experiments to estimate workers' willingness-to-pay for a broad set of job characteristics, which we validate with actual job choices. We find that working conditions vary substantially across workers, play a significant role in job choice decisions, and are central components of the compensation received by workers. Preferences vary by demographic groups and throughout the wage distribution. We find that accounting for differences in preferences for working conditions often exacerbates wage differentials by race, age, and education, and intensifies measures of wage inequality.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation working paper series. RAND working papers are intended to share researchers' latest findings and to solicit informal peer review. They have been approved for circulation by RAND but may not have been formally edited or peer reviewed.

Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.