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Equilibrium Incentive Contracts

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  • Moen, Espen R
  • Rosen, Asa

Abstract

We study a labour market in which firms can observe workers’ output but not their effort, and in which a worker’s productivity in a given firm depends on a worker-firm specific component, unobservable for the firm. Firms offer wage contracts that optimally trade off effort and wage costs. As a result, employed workers enjoy rents, which in turn create unemployment. We show that the socially efficient incentive power of the equilibrium wage contract is constrained in the absence of unemployment benefits. We then apply the model to explain the recent increase in performance-pay contracts. Within our model, this can be explained by three different factors: (i) increased importance of non-observable effort, (ii) a fall in the marginal tax rate, (iii) a reduction in the heterogeneity of workers performing the same task. The likely effect of all three factors is an increase in the equilibrium unemployment rate.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3790.

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Date of creation: Feb 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3790

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Keywords: contracts; efficiency; incentives; unemployment;

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References

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Robert Shimer, 1998. "Holdups and Efficiency with Search Frictions," Working papers 98-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," NBER Working Papers 6658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Foster, James E & Wan, Henry Y, Jr, 1984. "Involuntary Unemployment as a Principal-Agent Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 476-84, June.
  4. Edward P. Lazear, 1996. "Performance Pay and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 5672, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ritter, Joseph A & Taylor, Lowell J, 1994. "Workers as Creditors: Performance Bonds and Efficiency Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 694-704, June.
  6. Macleod, W.B. & Malcomson, J., 1989. "Wage Premiums And Profit Maximisation In Efficiency Wage Models," Papers 337, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics.
  7. Oliver Hart & Bengt Holmstrom, 1986. "The Theory of Contracts," Working papers 418, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  8. Montgomery, James D, 1991. "Equilibrium Wage Dispersion and Interindustry Wage Differentials," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(1), pages 163-79, February.
  9. Weitzman, Martin L, 1985. "The Simple Macroeconomics of Profit Sharing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 937-53, December.
  10. Carmichael, Lorne, 1985. "Can Unemployment Be Involuntary? Comment [Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device]," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1213-14, December.
  11. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  12. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  13. Frank, Robert H, 1984. "Are Workers Paid Their Marginal Products?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 549-71, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Ulf Axelson & Philip Bond, 2011. "Investment banking careers: An equilibrium theory of overpaid jobs," FMG Discussion Papers dp690, Financial Markets Group.
  2. Moen, Espen R & Rosen, Asa, 2006. "Incentives in Competitive Search Equilibrium and Wage Rigidity," CEPR Discussion Papers 5554, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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