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Yo, Taxi. Taxi! Taxi!!

Economic Trends


If you've ever been in Manhattan on business on a rainy afternoon, you know how hard it is to find a taxi. According to a new study by Linda Babcock and Colin Camerer of the California Institute of Technology, Richard H. Thaler of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and George Lowenstein of Carnegie Mellon University, the reason isn't simply that more people try to get cabs when the weather is bad.

Most New York cab drivers rent their cabs for a 12-hour period for a flat rate, keep all their fares, and knock off work during those 12 hours whenever they want. Since they make a lot more money per hour when demand is strong, you might think they would work longer on busy days. Not so, report the four economists, who analyzed nearly 3,000 daily trip sheets of over 1,000 New York taxi drivers from 1988 to 1994.

The study found that the drivers actually tended to quit earlier on busy days and work longer on slow days. The results suggest that drivers set a target for their daily incomes and quit when they reach it--though they could actually earn more and drive less by working the same number of hours every day.BY GENE KORETZ

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