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Estimating the Wage Elasticity of Labour Supply to a Firm: What Evidence is there for Monopsony?

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  • ALISON L. BOOTH
  • PAMELA KATIC

Abstract

In this paper we estimate the elasticity of the labour supply to a firm, using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. Estimation of this elasticity is of particular interest not only in its own right but also because of its relevance to the debate about the competitiveness of labour markets. The essence of monopsonistically competitive labour markets is that labour supply to a firm is imperfectly elastic with respect to the wage rate. The intuition is that, where workers have heterogeneous preferences or face mobility costs, firms can offer lower wages without immediately losing their workforce. This is in contrast to the perfectly competitive extreme, in which the elasticity is infinite. Therefore a simple test of whether labour markets are perfectly or imperfectly competitive involves estimating the elasticity of the labour supply to a firm. We find that the Australian wage elasticity of labour supply to a firm is around 0.71, only slightly smaller than the figure of 0.75 reported by Manning (2003) for the UK. These estimates are so far from the perfectly competitive assumption of an infinite elasticity that it would be difficult to make a case that labour markets are perfectly competitive.
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Suggested Citation

  • Alison L. Booth & Pamela Katic, 2011. "Estimating the Wage Elasticity of Labour Supply to a Firm: What Evidence is there for Monopsony?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 87(278), pages 359-369, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecorec:v:87:y:2011:i:278:p:359-369
    DOI: j.1475-4932.2011.00728.x
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1475-4932.2011.00728.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Albrecht, James W & Axell, Bo, 1984. "An Equilibrium Model of Search Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(5), pages 824-840, October.
    2. Alison L. Booth & Pamela Katic, 2011. "Men at Work in a Land Down‐Under: Testing Some Predictions of Human Capital Theory," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 49(1), pages 1-24, March.
    3. Barth, Erling & Dale-Olsen, Harald, 2009. "Monopsonistic discrimination, worker turnover, and the gender wage gap," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(5), pages 589-597, October.
    4. Mark Wooden & Nicole Watson, 2007. "The HILDA Survey and its Contribution to Economic and Social Research (So Far)," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(261), pages 208-231, June.
    5. Boris Hirsch & Thorsten Schank & Claus Schnabel, 2010. "Differences in Labor Supply to Monopsonistic Firms and the Gender Pay Gap: An Empirical Analysis Using Linked Employer-Employee Data from Germany," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(2), pages 291-330, April.
    6. Alison L. Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2005. "Testing Some Predictions of Human Capital Theory: New Training Evidence from Britain," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 391-394, May.
    7. 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 257-273, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jahn, Elke & Hirsch, Boris, 2012. "Is there monopsonistic discrimination against immigrants? First evidence from linked employer employee data," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 65417, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. repec:taf:applec:v:49:y:2017:i:51:p:5268-5286 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ronald Bachmann & Hanna Frings, 2017. "Monopsonistic competition, low-wage labour markets, and minimum wages – An empirical analysis," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(51), pages 5268-5286, November.
    4. Clémence Berson, 2016. "Local labor markets and taste-based discrimination," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-21, December.
    5. Boris Hirsch, 2016. "Gender wage discrimination," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 310-310, November.
    6. Hirsch, Boris & Jahn, Elke J. & Schnabel, Claus, 2013. "The cyclical behaviour of employers' monopsony power and workers' wages," Discussion Papers 89, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Labour and Regional Economics.
    7. Dobbelaere, Sabien & Kiyota, Kozo & Mairesse, Jacques, 2015. "Product and labor market imperfections and scale economies: Micro-evidence on France, Japan and the Netherlands," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 290-322.
    8. repec:spr:izamig:v:7:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1186_s40176-017-0099-x is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J42 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Monopsony; Segmented Labor Markets
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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