Freund, Florian Hawranek, Franziska vom Berge, Philipp Heuermann, Daniel F.
Year of Publication:
Beiträge zur Jahrestagung des Vereins für Socialpolitik 2015: Ökonomische Entwicklung - Theorie und Politik - Session: Local Labor Markets 2 F18-V2
Tax legislation in virtually all OECD countries foresees tax breaks for commuters. Such commuting allowances are implemented with the aim to raise matching efficiency in the labor market and / or to promote an equalization of net wages for workers independent of the length of their commute. Despite the fiscal magnitude of these subsidies (e.g. in Germany the sum of foregone tax income from commuting tax breaks amounts to 6 billion Euros annually) little is known about their effects on worker and firm behavior. In this paper we use the unexpected repeal of commuting subsidies in Germany between 2007 and 2009, which has affected different groups of workers to a different extent, as a natural experiment. Drawing on a large data set of geo-referenced employer-employee data and applying a difference-in-difference approach, we estimate the effect of commuting subsidies on wages and employment. Beyond the direct effect of the commuting tax break our results allow to draw inference on three key variables in labor economics: wage elasticity of labor supply, bargaining power of workers, and the wage elasticity of locational choice. We find that workers who lose some of their net wage as a result of the reform experience increases in gross wages of .6 per cent. Adjustments in gross wages differ, however, substantially across industries and across educational status, which can be taken as evidence for differential bargaining power across worker groups.