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The Layoff Rat Race

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  • Dan Bernhardt
  • Steeve Mongrain

Abstract

We investigate how discretionary investments in general and specific human capital are affected by the possibility of layoffs. After investments are made, firms may have to lay off workers, and will do so in inverse order of the profit that each worker generates. Greater skill investments, especially in specific human capital, contribute more to a firm's bottom line, so that workers who make those investments will be laid off last. We show that as long as workers' bargaining positions are not too weak, workers invest in specific human capital in order to reduce layoff probabilities. Indeed, workers "over-invest" in skill acquisition from a social perspective whenever their bargaining power is strong enough, even though they only receive a share of any investment. More generally, we characterize how equilibrium skill investments are affected by the distribution of worker abilities within firms, the probability that a firm will downsize, and the distribution of employment opportunities in the economy. Copyright The editors of the "Scandinavian Journal of Economics" 2010 .

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Scandinavian Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 112 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (03)
Pages: 185-210

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Handle: RePEc:bla:scandj:v:112:y:2010:i:1:p:185-210

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  1. Waldman, Michael, 1990. "Up-or-Out Contracts: A Signaling Perspective," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(2), pages 230-50, April.
  2. Robert Gibbons & Michael Waldman, 1999. "A Theory Of Wage And Promotion Dynamics Inside Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1321-1358, November.
  3. Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 2003. "Enriching a Theory of Wage and Promotion Dynamics Inside Firms," Working papers 4324-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  4. Gueorgui Kambourov & Iourii Manovskii, 2009. "Occupational Specificity Of Human Capital," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(1), pages 63-115, 02.
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