Spring 2006 Colloquia

Monday, January 30, 2006

Biological Differences, Absenteeism, and the Earning Gender Gap

ENRICO MORETTI, Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

In most Western countries, absenteeism is higher among female workers. This is true even if we consider only illness-related episodes. In this paper we find that part of this gender difference in absenteeism may be attributed to a biological difference between males and females. And that this biological difference has non-trivial earning consequences for females.

Specifically, we use information on the exact date and duration of absence episodes in the personnel dataset of a large Italian bank. The probability of an absence due to illness increases for females, relative to males, 28 days after the previous illness; this difference disappears for workers age 45 or older. These results suggest that menstrual cycles induce an increase in the hazard of an absence episode.

We present a simple model where employers can not directly observe workers' productivity, and use observable characteristics (including absenteeism) to identify productive workers. In the model, men are absent from work because of health and shirking shocks. Women face an additional source of absenteeism: menstrual cramps. Thus signal extraction based on absenteeism is more informative about shirking for males than for females.

Consistent with the predictions of a simple model, we find that
(1) the relationship between measures of worker quality and absenteeism is more negative for males
(2) The relationship between earnings and absenteeism is more negative for males
(3) This difference in slope declines with tenure

Finally, we calculate the earning cost for women. Under some assumptions, we find that higher absenteeism induced by 28-days cycles may explain 13 percent of the earnings gender differential.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Co-sponsored by The Center for Japanese Studies

Myths & Realities of Wage Reform: Evaluating "Pay for Performance" in the Japanese Firm

TSUYOSHI TSURU Freeman Visiting Professor of Economics, UC Berkeley
Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University

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Since the mid-1990s, many Japanese firms have implemented various personnel reforms to cope with long-standing economic stagnation and to induce greater work effort. It has been recognized that one of the major problems with Japan’s HR system is that it puts too much emphasis on potential job ability and seniority. The solution proposed has been pay for performance. However, what does pay for performance mean in the context of the Japanese HR system? What effect does pay for performance have on intra-firm wage structure and on individuals’ work effort? This presentation examines the processes and outcomes of the wage reforms in Japanese firms, using unique sets of personnel data and questionnaire survey results.

The empirical analysis reveals the following points. First, the skill grade compensation system used by Japanese companies has tended to attach increasing emphasis to seniority. Companies have found it difficult to solve this problem within the framework of the existing system. This is the driving force behind the adoption of the new compensation systems labeled “pay for performance” in the 1990s and in the New Millennium. Second, the new systems have in fact altered the compensation structures of the firms introducing them. Wage distributions have flattened and wage gaps among employees have widened. Third, despite reshaping pay structures, Japanese firms may not have enhanced the overall work effort and individual performance of their employees. Indeed, by fostering greater divisions and competition among employees, pay-for-performance systems may even be counterproductive.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Offshoring in the Semiconductor Industry

CLAIR BROWN, Professor, Department of Economics
Director, Center for Work, Technology, and Society, IRLE
University of California, Berkeley

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Semiconductor design is one of the many white-collar job categories considered to be at risk from offshoring by U.S. companies via investments and outsourcing. Data about this activity are scarce and hard to interpret, but there is much to be learned from looking at earlier periods in the industry's history when other phases of the semiconductor value chain assembly and fabrication experienced rapid offshore expansion.

Clair Brown will review the lessons from these earlier offshore movements of semiconductor industry jobs, and then discuss the current experience of the offshoring of semiconductor design based on her ongoing field research.

The experience of earlier periods supports the claim by some that offshoring is a reasonable response to the competitive challenges and opportunities facing the semiconductor industry, and that the industry will adapt in ways that aren't necessarily clear from the outset. Nevertheless, there is evidence that some U.S. chip design engineers face at least short-term displacement and hardship as a result of the industry's current round of globalization.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Globalization or Europeanization?: Changes in European firms and the European Economy since 1980

NEIL FLIGSTEIN, Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy

PAUL PIERSON, Professor of Political Science, UC Berkeley



Monday, April 17, 2006

Labor Struggles in the Global South: Current Patterns and the Potential for North-South Solidarity

PETER EVANS, Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Immigration Conference:
Spotlight on Immigration: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Immigrants and Their Children

Conference Agenda
Interdisciplinary Immigration Workshop


Monday, April 24, 2006

Reassessing the Efficacy of Workplace Safety Regulations: Evidence from Random OSHA Inspections

MICHAEL GREENSTONE, Visiting Scholar, Economics, M.I.T.

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Monday, May 1, 2006, 12:00 - 1:00pm, Director's Room

Do Immigrant Politicians Care More About Immigrants? The Role of Biography, Economics and Politics on Congressional Voting

IRENE BLOEMRAAD and NAOMI HSU, Professor of Sociology and Graduate Student, Dept. of Sociology, UC Berkeley


Monday, May 8, 2006

Fascism, Passive Revolution, and Types of Political Change


DYLAN RILEY, Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley