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When are layoffs acceptable? Evidence from a quasi-experiment

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  • Gary Charness
  • David I. Levine

Abstract

If, as has been widely suggested, internal labor markets are declining and a new employment contract with reduced employer-employee commitment is emerging, the criteria by which employees judge layoffs as fair or unfair may be changing. This paper presents findings relevant to that question, based on quasi-experimental surveys in Canada and the United States. Respondents rated layoffs stemming from reduced product demand as more fair than those resulting from employee suggestions. Behind this judgment, apparently, was the normative premise that companies should not punish employees for their efforts; rent-sharing norms appear to have played little or no role, as respondents deemed new technology an acceptable reason for layoffs. Consistent with theories of distributive and procedural equity, layoffs were perceived as more fair if the CEO voluntarily "shared the pain." Respondents in Silicon Valley were not more accepting of layoffs than were those in Canada, on average. (Abstract courtesy JSTOR.)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School in its journal ILR Review.

Volume (Year): 53 (2000)
Issue (Month): 3 (April)
Pages: 381-400

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Handle: RePEc:ilr:articl:v:53:y:2000:i:3:p:381-400

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References

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  1. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  2. David Card & Richard B. Freeman, 1993. "Introduction to "Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States"," NBER Chapters, in: Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States, pages 1-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Card & Richard B. Freeman, 1993. "Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number card93-1, May.
  4. Chaness, G. & Levine, D.I., 1999. "Changes in the Employment Contract? Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment," Papers 70, California Berkeley - Institute of Industrial Relations.
  5. MacKenzie, Scott B. & Podsakoff, Philip M. & Fetter, Richard, 1991. "Organizational citizenship behavior and objective productivity as determinants of managerial evaluations of salespersons' performance," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 123-150, October.
  6. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  7. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  8. Gary Charness, 1996. "Attribution and reciprocity in a simulated labor market: An experimental investigation," Economics Working Papers 283, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 1997.
  9. Baker, G.P. & Jensen, M.C. & Murphy, K.J., 1988. "Compensation And Incentives: Practice Vs. Theory," Papers 88-05, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
  10. Campbell, Carl M, III & Kamlani, Kunal S, 1997. "The Reasons for Wage Rigidity: Evidence from a Survey of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 759-89, August.
  11. Dial, Jay & Murphy, Kevin J., 1995. "Incentives, downsizing, and value creation at General Dynamics," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 261-314, March.
  12. Levine, David I, 1993. "Fairness, Markets, and Ability to Pay: Evidence from Compensation Executives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1241-59, December.
  13. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  14. Gorman, Raymond F & Kehr, James B, 1992. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 355-58, March.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Brandts,Jordi & Riedl,Arno & Winden,Frans,van, 2005. "Competition and Well-Being," Research Memorandum 033, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  2. Baxandall, Phineas, 2002. "Explaining differences in the political meaning of unemployment across time and space," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 469-502.
  3. Charness, Gary & Levine, David I., 2002. "Changes in the employment contract?: Evidence from a quasi-experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 391-405, April.
  4. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charnes, . "Retribution In A Cheap-Talk Experiment," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 454.00, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  5. Boyer, Tristan, 2002. "Gouvernement d'entreprise et décisions d'emploi
    [Corporate Governance and employment decisions]
    ," MPRA Paper 10287, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Paul, Maureen, 2006. "A cross-section analysis of the fairness-of-pay perception of UK employees," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 243-267, April.
  7. Christian Pfeifer, 2007. "The Perceived Fairness of Layoffs in Germany: Participation, Compensation, or Avoidance?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 25-36, August.
  8. Emmanuel Saez & Pascal Michaillat, 2013. "A Theory of Aggregate Supply and Aggregate Demand as Functions of Market Tightness with Prices as Parameters," 2013 Meeting Papers 1216, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Pfeifer, Christian, 2005. "Fairness and the labour market; A theoretical and empirical analysis of layoffs in Germany," Diskussionspapiere der Wirtschaftswissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Leibniz Universität Hannover dp-328, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  10. Kevin F. Hallock, 2009. "Job Loss and the Fraying of the Implicit Employment Contract," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 69-93, Fall.
  11. Andreas Kuhn, 2010. "The Public Perception and Normative Valuation of Executive Compensation: An International Comparison," NRN working papers 2010-13, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  12. Brandts, Jordi & Riedl, Arno & van Winden, Frans, 2009. "Competitive rivalry, social disposition, and subjective well-being: An experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1158-1167, December.
  13. Heinz, Matthias & Drzensky, Frank, 2013. "The Hidden Costs of Downsizing," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79764, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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