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Layoffs as Part of an Optimal Incentive Mix: Theory and Evidence

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  • Frederiksen, Anders

    ()
    (Aarhus University)

  • Takáts, Elöd

    ()
    (Princeton University)

Abstract

Firms offer highly complex contracts to their employees. These contracts contain a mix of incentives, such as fixed wages, bonus payments, promotion options, and layoff threats. In general, economists understand how incentives motivate employees but not why a particular mix should be used. In this paper we present a model in which the observed incentive mix is an optimal contract. In particular, we show that it can be optimal for firms to combine cost-efficient incentives such as promotions and bonuses with layoffs. The intuition is that layoffs play a dual role. First, they create incentives for the employees. Second, they contribute to sorting and selection. In the empirical part of the paper we test the model’s basic assumption about employee sorting and selection together with its broader predictions about employee careers. Using personnel records from a large international pharmaceutical company, we find that the model’s predictions are consistent with the data.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2447.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as 'Promotions, Dismissals and Employee Selection: Theory and Evidence' in: Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 2011, 27(1). 159-179
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2447

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Keywords: personnel economics; incentive mix; layoffs;

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References

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  1. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1998. "Motivation and Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 388-411, June.
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  7. Henry S. Farber & Robert Gibbons, 1997. "Learning and Wage Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 3764, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gibbs, Michael, 1995. "Incentive compensation in a corporate hierarchy," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 247-277, April.
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  11. 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.
  12. Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1993. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," NBER Working Papers 4480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-55, November.
  15. Ferrall, Christopher & Shearer, Bruce, 1999. "Incentives and Transactions Costs within the Firm: Estimating an Agency Model Using Payroll Records," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(2), pages 309-38, April.
  16. Guasch, J Luis & Weiss, Andrew, 1980. "Wages as Sorting Mechanisms in Competitive Markets with Asymmetric Information: A Theory of Testing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(4), pages 653-64, July.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Frederiksen, Anders, 2008. "Gender differences in job separation rates and employment stability: New evidence from employer-employee data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 915-937, October.
  2. Frederiksen, Anders & Ibsen, Rikke & Rosholm, Michael & Westergård-Nielsen, Niels C., 2006. "Labour Market Signalling and Unemployment Duration: An Empirical Analysis Using Employer-Employee Data," IZA Discussion Papers 2132, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Anders Frederiksen & Odile Poulsen, 2006. "Rising Wage Inequality: Does the Return to Management Tell the Whole Story?," Discussion Papers 05-007, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

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