Job lock: Conclusion

Links to all posts in the series to which this post belongs are in the introductory post

From this series’ review of the job lock literature and Nicholas Bagley’s review of the relevant legal landscape, as well as how the ACA changes it, I draw the following conclusions:

Finally, here’s a bonus bit of survey evidence from the Urban Institute:


To all this, consider the following additional considerations and caveats: Each estimate of job lock only pertains to one type (labor force participation, job mobility, entrepreneurship lock) and, usually, to a subset of the population for whom it might be relevant. As such, no single estimate is comprehensive of the entire phenomenon. Moreover, for cases for which there are multiple, comparable estimates, nobody has done a meta-analysis. Consequently, it is not clear what is the “right” point estimate for each variant of job lock. Nor is it clear what the overall labor market effects are, quantitatively and precisely.

The ACA only addresses certain, but not all, conditions that give rise to job lock and not completely. If you combine this fact with the prior paragraph, you’ll notice that we have a situation in which we neither fully know the extent of the problem nor the extent to which the ACA will address it. In their 2002 literature review, Gruber and Madrian also commented on the fact that we do not know the full welfare implications of job lock. As best I can tell, the literature has not advanced in this regard since their review.

Nevertheless, the labor market distortions of the pre-ACA insurance landscape (some of which remain) are real. They weighed heavily on the minds of economists and, to some extent, motivated some of the provisions of the health reform law.


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