IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Employment Duration and Resistance to Wage Reductions: Experimental Evidence


  • Michael Burda

    () (Department Faculty of Economics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany)

  • Werner G³th

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research into Economic Systems, Jena, Germany)

  • Georg Kirchsteiger

    () (ECARES-UniversitÚ Libre de Bruxelles)

  • Harald Uhlig

    () (Faculty of Economics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany)


One of the long-standing questions in economics is whether or not wages will fall sufficiently in recessions so as to avoid increases in unemployment. Put differently, if the competitive market wage declines, will employers simply force their employees to accept lower wages as well? As an alternative to reviewing statistical data, we have performed an experiment with a lower competitive wage in the second phase of an employment relationship that is known and can thus be (rationally) anticipated by both parties. The experiment casts two subjects in the highly stylized roles of employer and employee. For the hypothesis that employers will not lower wages correspondingly and that employees will resist such wage cuts we find at most mild evidence. Instead, the experimental results can be more fruitfully interpreted in terms of an ôultimatum gameö, in which surplus between employers and employeesááá is shared. In this view, wages and their lack of decline are simply the mechanical tool for accomplishing this split.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Burda & Werner G³th & Georg Kirchsteiger & Harald Uhlig, 2005. "Employment Duration and Resistance to Wage Reductions: Experimental Evidence," Homo Oeconomicus, Institute of SocioEconomics, vol. 22, pages 169-189.
  • Handle: RePEc:hom:homoec:v:22:y:2005:p:169-189

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1982. "Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 97-109, January.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
    3. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
    4. Layard, R. & Nickell, S., 1991. "Unemployment in the OECD Countries," Economics Series Working Papers 99130, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. Boldrin, Michael & Horvath, Michael, 1995. "Labor Contracts and Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 972-1004, October.
    6. Ken Binmore & Ariel Rubinstein & Asher Wolinsky, 1986. "The Nash Bargaining Solution in Economic Modelling," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(2), pages 176-188, Summer.
    7. Gary Solon & Robert Barsky & Jonathan A. Parker, 1994. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important is Composition Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-25.
    8. Oswald, Andrew J, 1985. " The Economic Theory of Trade Unions: An Introductory Survey," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 87(2), pages 160-193.
    9. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-254, May.
    10. Albert Ma, Ching-to & Weiss, Andrew M., 1993. "A signaling theory of unemployment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 135-157, January.
    11. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Riedl, Arno, 1996. "Involuntary Unemployment and Non-compensating Wage Differentials in an Experimental Labour Market," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(434), pages 106-121, January.
    12. Ernst FEHR & Simon GÄCHTER & Georg KIRCHSTEIGER, 1994. "Reciprocal Fairness and Noncompensating Wage Differentials," Vienna Economics Papers vie9401, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.
    13. Bils, Mark J, 1985. "Real Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(4), pages 666-689, August.
    14. Rosen, Sherwin, 1985. "Implicit Contracts: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 23(3), pages 1144-1175, September.
    15. Nickell, S., 1991. "Wages, Unemployment and Population Change," Economics Series Working Papers 99122, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Truman F. Bewley, 2002. "Fairness, Reciprocity, and Wage Rigidity," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1383, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    2. Christian Calmès, 2005. "Self-Enforcing Labour Contracts and the Dynamics Puzzle," Staff Working Papers 05-1, Bank of Canada.
    3. Smith, Jennifer C., 2002. "Pay Cuts And Morale : A Test Of Downward Nominal Rigidity," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 649, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    4. Simon G�chter & Ernst Fehr, "undated". "Fairness in the Labour Market � A Survey of Experimental Results," IEW - Working Papers 114, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    5. Bewley, Truman, 2004. "Fairness, Reciprocity, and Wage Rigidity," IZA Discussion Papers 1137, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J52 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Dispute Resolution: Strikes, Arbitration, and Mediation


    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:hom:homoec:v:22:y:2005:p:169-189. 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: (). 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.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with 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.