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Displacement, Asymmetric Information, and Heterogeneous Human Capital

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  • Luojia Hu

    (Northwestern University)

  • Christopher Taber

    (Northwestern University)

Abstract

In a seminal paper, Gibbons and Katz (1991) develop and empirically test an asymmetric information model of the labor market. The model predicts that wage losses following displacement should be larger for layoffs than for plant closings, which was borne out by data from the Displaced Workers Survey (DWS). In this paper, we take advantage of many more years of DWS data to examine how the difference in wage losses across plant closings and layoffs varies with race and gender. We find that the differences between white males and the other groups are striking and complex. The “lemons effect” of layoffs holds for white males, as in the Gibbons-Katz model, but not for the other three demographic groups (white females, black females, and black males). These three all experience a greater decline in earnings at plant closings than at layoffs. This results from two reinforcing effects. First, plant closings have substantially more negative effects on minorities than on whites. Second, layoffs seem to have more negative consequences for white men than the other groups. These findings suggest that the Gibbons-Katz asymmetric information model is not sufficient to explain all of the data. We augment the model with heterogeneous human capital and show that this model can explain the findings. We also provide some additional evidence suggestive that both asymmetric information and heterogeneous human capital are important. In support of both explanations, we demonstrate that the racial and gender effects are surprisingly robust to region, industry, and occupation controls. To look at the asymmetric information, we make use of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which induced employers to lay off “protected” workers in mass layoffs rather than fire them for cause. As a result, relative to whites, a layoff would be a more negative signal for blacks after 1991 than before. If information is important, this would in turn imply that blacks experience a relatively larger loss in earnings at layoffs after 1991 than prior; and that’s what we find in the data. In addition, as further evidence for heterogeneous human capital, we document for the first time in the literature that the two types of layoffs reported in the DWS data, namely layoffs due to “slack work” and “position abolished,” have very different features when compared to plant closings. Finally, we simulate our model and show that it can match the data.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in its series Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles with number 07-136.

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Date of creation: Jun 2007
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Handle: RePEc:upj:weupjo:07-136

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Keywords: human capital; plant closings; layoffs; sex; gender; race;

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References

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  1. Joseph G. Altonji & Charles R. Pierret, 1997. "Employer Learning and Statistical Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 6279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Harry Krashinsky, 2002. "Evidence on adverse selection and establishment size in the labor market," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(1), pages 84-96, October.
  3. Joseph G. Altonji & Rebecca M. Blank, . "Race and Gender in the Labor Market," IPR working papers 98-18, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  4. Robert Gibbons & Lawrence Katz, 1989. "Layoffs and Lemons," NBER Working Papers 2968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn C, 1993. "Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1220-40, December.
  6. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
  7. Richard Startz & Lundberg, . "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 19-81, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  8. Akerlof, George A, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617, November.
  9. Laing, Derek, 1994. "Involuntary Layoffs in a Model with Asymmetric Information Concerning Worker Ability," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(2), pages 375-92, April.
  10. Song, Younghwan, 2007. "Recall bias in the displaced workers survey: Are layoffs really lemons?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 335-345, June.
  11. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226041162, June.
  12. Dennis J. Aigner & Glen G. Cain, 1977. "Statistical theories of discrimination in labor markets," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(2), pages 175-187, January.
  13. 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.
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