Essays on Policy in Low-Wage Labor Markets

TitleEssays on Policy in Low-Wage Labor Markets
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsEngle, E
Academic DepartmentEconomics
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
UniversityHarvard University
CityCambridge, MA

Many policies seek to improve the lot of low-wage workers in the United States and thus
target the labor markets in which they work. However, the effects of these policies may be
complicated by the features of these markets. These essays examine three such instances.
In the first, the Department of Labor extended federal wage and hour regulation to cover
previously-exempt home care workers, making them eligible for minimum wage, overtime
pay, and travel pay protections for the first time. We argue that the effects of the policy are
influenced by the fact that many home care clients pay for their services with Medicaid,
which pays home care agencies a fixed rate. The second essay turns to occupational
licensing requirements, particularly restrictions that prevent workers with prior felony
convictions from receiving a license. I find that the same regulation has different effects
when implemented by the legislature than when it is implemented by the occupational
licensing board, highlighting the role of different incentives between an elected legislature
and a board of professionals tasked with regulating itself. Finally, the third essay examines
Ban the Box policies, which remove criminal record questions from job applications. While
prior work has modeled this as a removal of information, employers frequently conduct
pre-employment background checks. I model this delay of information and explore the
predictions that differ from when it is considered a removal of information.

Citation Key13317