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The real thin theory: monopsony in modern labour markets

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  • Alan Manning

Abstract

Models of "modern monopsony" based on job differentiation and/or search frictions seem to give employers non-negligible market power over their workers while avoiding the assumption of "classical monopsony" that employers are large in relation to the size of the labour market that many labour economists find implausible. But, this paper argues that this is somewhat of an illusion because modern theories of monopsony do assume that labour markets are "thin", although in a more subtle way than the classical models. The paper also argues that there is evidence that labour markets are "thin" in a way that gives employers some market power over their workers. It presents a model that combines both the job differentiation and search models of modern monopsony and derives predictions about the relationship between wages and commuting. The paper uses UK data to argue that there is good evidence for these predictions: that there is a robust correlation between wages and commuting distance that is the result of worker job search in a thin labour market, that those with longer commutes are not, on average, fully compensated for them and that there is substantial "wasteful" commuting.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/20050/
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 20050.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: May 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:20050

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  1. Albrecht, James W & Axell, Bo, 1983. "An Equilibrium Model of Search Unemployment," Working Paper Series 99, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  2. Burdett, Kenneth & Mortensen, Dale T, 1998. "Wage Differentials, Employer Size, and Unemployment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(2), pages 257-73, May.
  3. Manning, Alan, 2011. "Imperfect Competition in the Labor Market," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
  4. Brueckner, Jan & Thisse, Jacques-François & Zenou, Yves, 2000. "Local Labour Markets, Job Matching and Urban Location," CEPR Discussion Papers 2612, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Zax, Jeffrey S., 1991. "Compensation for commutes in labor and housing markets," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 192-207, September.
  6. Roell, Ailsa, 1982. "Wasteful Commuting: Appendix," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 1052-53, October.
  7. Frost, Martin & Linneker, Brian & Spence, Nigel, 1998. "Excess or wasteful commuting in a selection of British cities," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 529-538, September.
  8. Small, Kenneth A & Song, Shunfeng, 1992. ""Wasteful" Commuting: A Resolution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 888-98, August.
  9. Steven C. Salop, 1979. "Monopolistic Competition with Outside Goods," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 141-156, Spring.
  10. Madden, Janice Fanning, 1985. "Urban wage gradients: Empirical evidence," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 291-301, November.
  11. Alan Manning & Ted To, 2002. "Oligopsony and Monopsonistic Competition in Labor Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 155-174, Spring.
  12. Bhaskar, V & To, Ted, 1999. "Minimum Wages for Ronald McDonald Monopsonies: A Theory of Monopsonistic Competition," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(455), pages 190-203, April.
  13. Holzer Harry J. & Ihlanfeldt Keith R. & Sjoquist David L., 1994. "Work, Search, and Travel among White and Black Youth," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 320-345, May.
  14. Small, K.A. & Gomez-Ibanez, J.A., 1996. "Urban Transportation," Papers 95-96-4, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  15. HAMILTON, Jonathan & THISSE, Jacques-François & ZENOU, Yves, . "Wage competition with heterogeneous workers and firms," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1463, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  16. Timothy J. Gronberg & W. Robert Reed, 1994. "Estimating Workers' Marginal Willingness to Pay for Job Attributes Using Duration Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(3), pages 911-931.
  17. Brueckner, Jan K. & Thisse, Jacques-Francois & Zenou, Yves, 1999. "Why is central Paris rich and downtown Detroit poor?: An amenity-based theory," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 91-107, January.
  18. Hwang, Hae-shin & Mortensen, Dale T & Reed, W Robert, 1998. "Hedonic Wages and Labor Market Search," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(4), pages 815-47, October.
  19. Hamilton, Bruce W, 1982. "Wasteful Commuting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 1035-51, October.
  20. Helsley, Robert W. & Strange, William C., 1990. "Matching and agglomeration economies in a system of cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 189-212, September.
  21. Hamilton, Bruce W, 1989. "Wasteful Commuting Again," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1497-1504, December.
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