IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Asymmetric reference-dependent reciprocity, downward wage rigidity, and the employment contract


  • Dickson, Alex
  • Fongoni, Marco


We develop a model of asymmetric reciprocity and optimal wage setting based on contractual incompleteness, fairness, and reference dependence and loss aversion in the evaluation of wages by workers. The model establishes a positive wage-effort relationship capturing a worker’s ‘asymmetric reference-dependent reciprocity’, in which loss aversion implies negative reciprocity is stronger than positive reciprocity. Our theory provides an explanation for the observed asymmetry and dynamics of workers’ reciprocity and establishes a micro-foundation for downward wage rigidity, the implications of which shed new light on a forward-looking firm’s optimal wage setting and hiring decisions.

Suggested Citation

  • Dickson, Alex & Fongoni, Marco, 2019. "Asymmetric reference-dependent reciprocity, downward wage rigidity, and the employment contract," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 409-429.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:163:y:2019:i:c:p:409-429
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.05.006

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Reference dependence; Loss aversion; Asymmetric reciprocity; Downward wage rigidity;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E70 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:163:y:2019:i:c:p:409-429. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.