Higher levels of air pollution reduce worker
productivity, even when air quality is generally low
Environmental regulations are typically
considered to be a drag on the economy. However, improved environmental
quality may actually enhance productivity by creating a healthier workforce.
Evidence suggests that improvements in air quality lead to improvements in
worker productivity across a range of sectors, including agriculture,
manufacturing, and the service sectors. These effects also arise at levels
of air quality that are below pollution thresholds in countries with the
highest levels of environmental regulation. The findings suggest a new
approach for understanding the consequences of environmental
How different procedures might succeed in
Alternative dispute resolution procedures such as
arbitration and mediation are the most common methods for resolving wage,
contract, and grievance disputes, but they lead to varying levels of success
and acceptability of the outcome depending on their design. Some innovative
procedures, not yet implemented in the real world, are predicted to improve
on existing procedures in some ways. But controlled tests of several
procedures show that the simple addition of a nonbinding stage prior to
binding dispute resolution can produce the best results in terms of cost
(monetary and “uncertainty” costs) and acceptability.
Blind recruitment can level the playing field
in access to jobs but cannot prevent all forms of discrimination
The use of anonymous job applications (or blind
recruitment) to combat hiring discrimination is gaining attention and
interest. Results from field experiments and pilot projects in European
countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden are considered
here), Canada, and Australia shed light on their potential to reduce some of
the discriminatory barriers to hiring for minority and other disadvantaged
groups. But although this approach can achieve its primary aims, there are
also important cautions to consider.
Donors rely on overhead costs to evaluate
charities, but that reliance creates disincentives for charities to hire
Charity rating agencies often focus on overhead
cost ratios in evaluating charities, and donors appear to be sensitive to
these measures when deciding where to donate. Yet, there appears to be a
tenuous connection between this widely-used metric and a charity’s
effectiveness. There is evidence that a focus on overhead costs leads
charities to underinvest in important functions, especially skilled workers.
To evaluate policies that regulate overhead costs, it is necessary to
examine whether donors care about overhead costs, whether they are good
measures of charity effectiveness, and what effects a focus on overhead
costs has on charities.
Workers care about employers’ social causes, but
the public sector does not attract particularly motivated employees
Employees show more commitment to an employer
that promotes the greater good, and they work harder too. Moreover, many
people are willing to give up some of their compensation to contribute to a
social cause. Being able to attract a motivated workforce would be
particularly important for the public sector, but this goal remains elusive.
Indeed, there is evidence for the public sector that paying people more or
underlining the career opportunities (as opposed to the social aspects)
associated with public sector jobs is instrumental in attracting a more
productive workforce, without having a negative impact on intrinsic
What evidence exists on whether bad bosses damage workers’ performance, or good bosses enhance it?
A good boss can have a substantial positive effect on the productivity of a typical worker. While much has been written about the peer effects of working with good peers, the effects of working with good bosses appear much more substantial. A good boss can enhance the performance of their employees and can lower the quit rate. This may also be relevant in situations where it is challenging to employ incentive pay structures, such as when quality is difficult to observe. As such, firms should invest sufficiently in the hiring of good bosses with skills that are appropriate to their role.
Firms need to tailor their allocation of talent
and responsibility, and their managerial structure, to fit their competitive
Managers are supervising more and more workers,
and firms are getting flatter. However, not all firms have been keen on
increasing the number of subordinates that their bosses manage (referred to
as the “span of control” in human resource management), contending that
there are limits to leveraging managerial ability. The diversity of firms’
organizational structure suggests that no universal rule can be applied.
Identifying the factors behind the choice of firms’ internal organization is
crucial and will help firms properly design their hierarchy and efficiently
allocate scarce managerial resources within the organization.
Employers can use laboratory experiments to
structure payment policies and incentive schemes
Can a company attract a different type of
employee by changing its compensation scheme? Is it sufficient to pay more
to increase employees’ motivation? Should a firm provide evaluation feedback
to employees based on their absolute or their relative performance?
Laboratory experiments can help address these questions by identifying the
causal impact of variations in personnel policy on employees’ productivity
and mobility. Although they are collected in an artificial environment, the
qualitative external validity of findings from the lab is now well
What can we learn about discrimination in hiring?
Anti-discrimination policies play an important role in public
discussions. However, identifying discriminatory practices in the labor market is not an easy
task. Correspondence testing provides a credible way to reveal discrimination in hiring and
provide hard facts for policies. The method involves sending matched pairs of identical job
applications to employers posting jobs—the only difference being a characteristic that signals
membership to a group.