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Competition and Relational Contracts: The Role of Unemployment as a Disciplinary Device

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  • Brown, Martin

    ()
    (Swiss National Bank)

  • Falk, Armin

    ()
    (University of Bonn)

  • Fehr, Ernst

    ()
    (University of Zurich)

Abstract

When unemployment prevails, relations with a particular firm are valuable for workers. As a consequence, a worker may adhere to an implicit agreement to provide high effort, even when performance is not third-party enforceable. But can implicit agreements – or relational contracts – also motivate high worker performance when the labor market is tight? We examine this question by implementing an experimental market in which there is an excess demand for labor and the performance of workers is not third-party enforceable. We show that relational contracts emerge in which firms reward performing workers with wages that exceed the going market rate. This motivates workers to provide high effort, even though they could shirk and switch firms. Our results thus suggest that unemployment is not a necessary device to motivate workers. We also discuss how market conditions affect relational contracting by comparing identical labor markets with excess supply and excess demand for labor. Long-term relationships turn out to be less frequent when there is excess demand for labor compared to a market characterized by unemployment. Surprisingly though, this does not compromise market performance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3345.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3345

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Keywords: relational contracts; involuntary unemployment;

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References

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  1. Roe, Brian E. & Wu, Steven Y., 2009. "Do the Selfish Mimic Cooperators? Experimental Evidence from Finitely-Repeated Labor Markets," IZA Discussion Papers 4084, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Martin Brown & Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr, 2004. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 747-780, 05.
  3. Hoyt Bleakley & Ann E. Ferris & Jeffrey C. Fuhrer, 1999. "New data on worker flows during business cycles," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Jul, pages 49-76.
  4. Flabbi, Luca & Ichino, Andrea, 1998. "Productivity, Seniority and Wages: New Evidence from Personnel Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 1966, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  6. Medoff, James L & Abraham, Katharine G, 1980. "Experience, Performance, and Earnings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 95(4), pages 703-36, December.
  7. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
  8. James Andreoni & Marco Castillo & Ragan Petrie, 2003. "What Do Bargainers' Preferences Look Like? Experiments with a Convex Ultimatum Game," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 672-685, June.
  9. Steffen Huck & Andrew J. Seltzer & Brian Wallace, 2011. "Deferred Compensation in Multiperiod Labor Contracts: An Experimental Test of Lazear's Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 819-43, April.
  10. Wu, Steven Y. & Roe, Brian E., 2007. "Discretionary Latitude and Relational Contracting," IZA Discussion Papers 2879, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Bartling, Björn & Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2012. "Use and Abuse of Authority," Discussion Papers in Economics 14243, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Charness, Gary & Du, Ninghua & Yang, Chun-Lei & Yao, Lan, 2013. "Promises in contract design," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 194-208.
  3. Schram, Arthur & Brandts, Jordi & Gërxhani, Klarita, 2010. "Information, bilateral negotiations, and worker recruitment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(8), pages 1035-1058, November.
  4. Ernst Fehr & Martin Brown & Christian Zehnder, 2008. "On reputation: A microfoundation of contract enforcement and price rigidity," IEW - Working Papers 384, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Robert Dur & Jan Tichem, 2012. "Social Relations and Relational Incentives," CESifo Working Paper Series 3826, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Björn Bartling & Ernst Fehr & Klaus Schmidt, 2013. "Use and Abuse of Authority - A Behavioral Foundation of the Employment Relation," CESifo Working Paper Series 4068, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Bartling, Björn & Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2012. "Use and Abuse of Authority," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 391, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  8. Kocher, Martin G. & Luhan, Wolfgang J. & Sutter, Matthias, 2012. "Testing a Forgotten Aspect of Akerlof's Gift Exchange Hypothesis: Relational Contracts with Individual and Uniform Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 6415, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. repec:dgr:uvatin:2012054 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Klaus M. Schmidt, 2011. "Social Preferences and Competition," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 43, pages 207-231, 08.
  11. Werner, Peter & Bolton, Gary & Ockenfels, Axel, 2013. "How managerial wage transparency may reduce shareholder returns Evidence from an experiment," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79766, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  12. Kocher, Martin G. & Luhan, Wolfgang J. & Sutter, Matthias, 2012. "Testing a forgotten aspect of Akerlof’s gift exchange hypothesis: Relational contracts with individual and uniform wages," Discussion Papers in Economics 12816, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  13. Vogt, Nora & Reeson, Andrew F. & Bizer, Kilian, 2013. "Communication, competition and social gift exchange in an auction for public good provision," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 11-19.
  14. Dur, Robert & Tichem, Jan, 2013. "Altruism and Relational Incentives in the Workplace," IZA Discussion Papers 7363, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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