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Contract Form, Wage Flexibility, and Employment

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Author Info

  • Thomas Lemieux
  • W. Bentley MacLeod
  • Daniel Parent

Abstract

We begin with two uncontroversial hypotheses - firm productivity is expensive to measure and employment entails relationship-specific investments. These assumptions imply that firms would optimally choose fixed-wage contracts, and complement these with bonus pay when measuring employee performance is not too costly. These assumptions imply that under an optimal employment contract hours of work is less responsive, while total compensation is more responsive to shocks under bonus-pay contracts compared to fixed wage contracts. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) where shocks are proxied using the local unemployment rate, we find strong support for these two implications.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.102.3.526
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 526-31

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:3:p:526-31

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  1. Victor P. Goldberg, 1977. "Competitive Bidding and the Production of Precontract Information," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 8(1), pages 250-261, Spring.
  2. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
  3. Charles Brown, 1990. "Wage Levels and Method of Pay," NBER Working Papers 3336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
  5. Macleod, W.B. & Kenemoto, Y., 1990. "The Ratchet Effect and the Market for Second-Hand Workers," Cahiers de recherche 9027, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  6. Paul Oyer & Scott Schaefer, 2004. "Why Do Some Firms Give Stock Options to All Employees?: An Empirical Examination of Alternative Theories," NBER Working Papers 10222, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Malcomson, James M & Spinnewyn, Frans, 1988. "The Multiperiod Principal-Agent Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(3), pages 391-407, July.
  8. Robert E. Hall & Edward P. Lazear, 1982. "The Excess Sensitivity of Layoffs and Quits to Demand," NBER Working Papers 0864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Sherwin Rosen, 1985. "Implicit Contracts: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 1635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Lorne Carmichael & W. Bentley MacLeod, 2003. "Caring About Sunk Costs: A Behavioral Solution to Holdup Problems with Small Stakes," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 106-118, April.
  11. Beaudry, Paul & DiNardo, John, 1991. "The Effect of Implicit Contracts on the Movement of Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 665-88, August.
  12. Baily, Martin Neil, 1974. "Wages and Employment under Uncertain Demand," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 37-50, January.
  13. Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "Optimal Labour Contracts under Asymmetric Information: An Introduction," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 3-35, January.
  14. Gary S. Becker, 1962. "Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 9.
  15. Daniel Sullivan & Till von Wachter, 2009. "Job Displacement and Mortality: An Analysis Using Administrative Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1265-1306, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Nucci, Francesco & Riggi, Marianna, 2013. "Performance pay and changes in U.S. labor market dynamics," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 2796-2813.

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