November 2019

The Self-Employment Option in Rigid Labor Markets: An Empirical Investigation

Joaquin Garcia-Cabo and Rocio Madera


This paper studies selection into and returns to self-employment in labor markets with stringent employment protection. Using Spanish administrative panel data, we characterize self-employment dynamics in the presence of rigidities that affect workers’ outside options. We document the negative selection into self-employment when workers enter from unemployment, and the pro-cyclicality of the decision. We identify career heterogeneity in the data and estimate a rich life-cycle income process. The self-employed face shocks with smaller variances but lower returns compared to fixed-term workers—the prevalent contract out of unemployment. These facts call for a revision of active labor market policies in place.

Keywords: Self-employment, business cycles, unemployment, employment protection


PDF: Full Paper

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Last Update: January 09, 2020