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Optimal Job Design and Career Dynamics in the Presence of Uncertainty

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  • Elena Pastorino

Abstract

The paper studies a learning model in which information about a worker's ability can be acquired symmetrically by the worker and a firm in any period by observing the worker's performance on a given task. Productivity at different tasks is assumed to be differentially sensitive to a worker's intrinsic talent: potentially more profitable tasks entail the risk of greater output destruction if the worker assigned to them is not of the ability required. We characterize the (essentially unique) optimal retention, task assignment and promotion policy for the class of sequential equilibria of this game, by showing that the equilibria of interest are strategically equivalent to the solution of an experimentation problem (a discounted multi-armed bandit with independent and dependent arms). These equilibria are all ex ante efficient but involve ex post inefficient task allocation and separation. While the ex post inefficiency of separations persists even as the time horizon becomes arbitrarily large, in the limit task assignment is efficient. When ability consists of multiple skills, low performing promoted workers are fired rather than demoted, if outcomes at lower level tasks, compared to those at higher level tasks, provide a sufficiently accurate measure of ability. We then examine the strategic effects of the dynamics of learning on a worker's career profile. We prove, in particular, that price competition among firms causes ex ante inefficient turnover and task assignment, independently of the degree of transferability of human capital. In a class of equilibria of interest it generates a wage dynamics consistent with properties observed in the data

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Econometric Society in its series Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings with number 292.

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Date of creation: 11 Aug 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ecm:nasm04:292

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Keywords: Learning; Job Assignment; Experimentation; Correlated Multi-armed Bandit;

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  1. 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.
  2. Aghion, P. & Bolton, P. & Harris, C. & Jullien, B., 1990. "Optimal Learning By Experimentation," DELTA Working Papers 90-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  3. Davis, Steven J., 1997. "Sorting, learning, and mobility when jobs have scarcity value : A comment," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 327-337, June.
  4. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  5. Bergemann, Dirk & Valimaki, Juuso, 1996. "Learning and Strategic Pricing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1125-49, September.
  6. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Internal Economics of the Firm: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 881-919, November.
  7. Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 1999. "Careers in organizations: Theory and evidence," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2373-2437 Elsevier.
  8. Rothschild, Michael, 1974. "A two-armed bandit theory of market pricing," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 185-202, October.
  9. Aghion, Philippe, et al, 1991. "Optimal Learning by Experimentation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(4), pages 621-54, July.
  10. Holmstrom, Bengt R. & Tirole, Jean, 1989. "The theory of the firm," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-133 Elsevier.
  11. Harris, Milton & Weiss, Yoram, 1984. "Job Matching with Finite Horizon and Risk Aversion," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(4), pages 758-79, August.
  12. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1994. "Switching Costs and the Gittins Index," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 687-94, May.
  13. Araújo, Luis Fernando de Oliveira & Camargo, Braz Ministério de, 2010. "Monetary equilibrium with decentralized trade and learning," Textos para discussão 222, Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
  14. Banks, J.S. & Sundaram, R.K., 1990. "A Class Of Bandit Problems Yielding Myopic Optimal Strategies," RCER Working Papers 239, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  15. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sundaram, Rangarajan K, 1992. "Denumerable-Armed Bandits," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1071-96, September.
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