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The Layoff Rat Race

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  • Dan Bernhardt
  • Steeve Mongrain

Abstract

We investigate how discretionary investments in general and specific human capital are affected by the possibility of layoffs. After investments are made, firms may have to lay off workers, and will do so in inverse order of the profit that each worker generates. Greater skill investments, especially in specific human capital, contribute more to a firm's bottom line, so that workers who make those investments will be laid off last. We show that as long as workers' bargaining positions are not too weak, workers invest in specific human capital in order to reduce layoff probabilities. Indeed, workers "over-invest" in skill acquisition from a social perspective whenever their bargaining power is strong enough, even though they only receive a share of any investment. More generally, we characterize how equilibrium skill investments are affected by the distribution of worker abilities within firms, the probability that a firm will downsize, and the distribution of employment opportunities in the economy. Copyright The editors of the "Scandinavian Journal of Economics" 2010 .

Suggested Citation

  • Dan Bernhardt & Steeve Mongrain, 2010. "The Layoff Rat Race," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 112(1), pages 185-210, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:scandj:v:112:y:2010:i:1:p:185-210
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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