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When are layoffs acceptable? Evidence from a quasi-experiment

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  • Gary Charness
  • David I. Levine

Abstract

Many authors have discussed a decline in internal labor markets and an apparent shift to a new employment contract, characterized by less commitment between employer and employee and more portable skills. These discussions occur without much evidence on what employment contract employees currently feel is fair. We perfomed quasi-experimental surveys to study when employees in the U.S. and Canada feel that layoffs are fair. Layoffs were perceived as more fair if they were due to lower product demand than if the result of employee suggestions. This result appears to be solely due to norms of reciprocity (companies should not punish employees for their efforts), rather than norms of sharing rents, as new technology was also considered a justification for layoffs. Consistent with theories of distributive and procedural equity, layoffs were perceived as more fair if the CEO voluntarily shared the pain. CEO bonuses due to layoffs lowered their reported fairness only slightly. Respondents in Silicon Valley were not more accepting of layoffs than were those in Canada on average, although the justifications considered valid differed slightly.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 369.

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Date of creation: Mar 1999
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:369

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Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

Related research

Keywords: New employment contract; fairness; justifications; layoffs; survey; Leex;

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  1. Chaness, G. & Levine, D.I., 1999. "Changes in the Employment Contract? Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment," Papers 70, California Berkeley - Institute of Industrial Relations.
  2. David Card & Richard B. Freeman, 1993. "Introduction to "Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States"," NBER Chapters, in: Small Differences That Matter: Labor Markets and Income Maintenance in Canada and the United States, pages 1-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
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  7. Gorman, Raymond F & Kehr, James B, 1992. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 355-58, March.
  8. Campbell, Carl M, III & Kamlani, Kunal S, 1997. "The Reasons for Wage Rigidity: Evidence from a Survey of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 759-89, August.
  9. Dial, Jay & Murphy, Kevin J., 1995. "Incentives, downsizing, and value creation at General Dynamics," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 261-314, March.
  10. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  11. Gary Charness, 1996. "Attribution and reciprocity in a simulated labor market: An experimental investigation," Economics Working Papers 283, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 1997.
  12. Levine, David I, 1993. "Fairness, Markets, and Ability to Pay: Evidence from Compensation Executives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1241-59, December.
  13. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  14. MacKenzie, Scott B. & Podsakoff, Philip M. & Fetter, Richard, 1991. "Organizational citizenship behavior and objective productivity as determinants of managerial evaluations of salespersons' performance," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 123-150, October.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Brandts, Jordi & Riedl, Arno & van Winden, Frans A.A.M., 2006. "Competition and Well-Being," CEPR Discussion Papers 5532, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Chaness, Gary & Levine, David I., 1999. "Changes in the Employment Contract? Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt4p535308, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  3. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charnes, . "Retribution In A Cheap-Talk Experiment," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 454.00, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  4. Andreas Kuhn, 2010. "The Public Perception and Normative Valuation of Executive Compensation: An International Comparison," NRN working papers 2010-13, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  5. Paul, Maureen, 2006. "A cross-section analysis of the fairness-of-pay perception of UK employees," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 243-267, April.
  6. Christian Pfeifer, 2007. "The Perceived Fairness of Layoffs in Germany: Participation, Compensation, or Avoidance?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 25-36, August.
  7. Brandts, Jordi & Riedl, Arno & van Winden, Frans, 2009. "Competitive rivalry, social disposition, and subjective well-being: An experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1158-1167, December.
  8. Heinz, Matthias & Drzensky, Frank, 2013. "The Hidden Costs of Downsizing," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79764, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  9. Kevin F. Hallock, 2009. "Job Loss and the Fraying of the Implicit Employment Contract," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 69-93, Fall.
  10. Brandts,Jordi & Riedl,Arno & Winden,Frans,van, 2005. "Competition and Well-Being," Research Memorandum 033, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  11. Pfeifer, Christian, 2005. "Fairness and the labour market; A theoretical and empirical analysis of layoffs in Germany," Diskussionspapiere der Wirtschaftswissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Leibniz Universität Hannover dp-328, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  12. Baxandall, Phineas, 2002. "Explaining differences in the political meaning of unemployment across time and space," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 469-502.
  13. Boyer, Tristan, 2002. "Gouvernement d'entreprise et décisions d'emploi
    [Corporate Governance and employment decisions]
    ," MPRA Paper 10287, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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