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

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  • Anders Frederiksen

    ()
    (Stanford University)

  • Elõd Takáts

    ()
    (Princeton University)

Abstract

Firms offer highly complex contracts to their employees. These contracts contain a mix of various incentives, such as fixed wages, bonuses, promise of promotion, and threat of firing. This paper aims at explaining the reason why this incentive- mix arises. In particular, the model focuses on why firms are combining promotions and bonuses with firing. The theoretical model proposed is a job-assignment model with heterogeneous employees. In this model the firm is concerned about job assignment, because the overall productivity of the firm depends upon the quality of the employees and their allocation to jobs. The model shows that firing has a dual role. Firing creates incentives for the employees, and it is used as a sorting device that allows the firm to improve workforce quality. Thus, quality-concerned firms might want to combine cost-efficient incentives such as promotions and bonuses with firing. To comply with the Gibbons and Waldman critique, a large set of the model’s broader predictions is stated explicitly and tested on the personnel records from a large pharmaceutical company. The model’s predictions are shown to be consistent with the data.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Magyar Nemzeti Bank (the central bank of Hungary) in its series MNB Working Papers with number 2006/2.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mnb:wpaper:2006/2

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Keywords: personnel economics; incentive mix; layoffs.;

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  1. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-80, June.
  2. 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.
  3. MacLeod, W.B. & Malcomson, J.M., 1997. "Motivation and markets," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9720, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  4. James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1981. "Are Those Paid More Really More Productive? The Case of Experience," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 16(2), pages 186-216.
  5. 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.
  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. 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.
  8. Bentley W. MacLeod, 2003. "Optimal Contracting with Subjective Evaluation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 216-240, March.
  9. 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.
  10. Henry S. Farber & Robert Gibbons, 1994. "Learning and Wage Dynamics," Working Papers 707, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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  12. Gibbs, Michael, 1995. "Incentive compensation in a corporate hierarchy," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 247-277, April.
  13. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
  14. 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.
  15. Michael Waldman, 1983. "Job Assignments, Signalling nad Efficiency," UCLA Economics Working Papers 286, UCLA Department of Economics.
  16. Calvo, Guillermo A & Wellisz, Stanislaw, 1979. "Hierarchy, Ability, and Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 991-1010, October.
  17. 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.
  18. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-64, October.
  19. 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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Frederiksen, Anders, 2006. "Gender Differences in Job Separation Rates and Employment Stability: New Evidence from Employer-Employee Data," IZA Discussion Papers 2147, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

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