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Workers' Trust Funds and the Logic of Wage Profiles

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  • George A. Akerlof
  • Lawrence F. Katz

Abstract

This paper defines a concept, a worker's trust fund, which is useful in analyzing optimal age-earnings profiles. The trust fund represents what a worker loses if dismissed from a job for shirking. In considering whether to work or shirk, a worker weighs the potential loss due to forfeiture of the trust fund if caught shirking against the benefits from reduced effort. This concept is used to show that the implicit bonding in upward sloping age-earnings profiles is not a perfect substitute for an explicit up-front performance bond (or employment fee). It is also shown that the second-best optimal earnings profile in the absence of an up-front employment fee pays total compensation in excess of market clearing in a variety of stylized cases.

Suggested Citation

  • George A. Akerlof & Lawrence F. Katz, 1989. "Workers' Trust Funds and the Logic of Wage Profiles," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(3), pages 525-536.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:104:y:1989:i:3:p:525-536.
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    1. Eaton, Curtis & White, William D, 1983. "The Economy of High Wages: An Agency Problem," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(198), pages 175-181, May.
    2. Yellen, Janet L, 1984. "Efficiency Wage Models of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 200-205, May.
    3. William T. Dickens & Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin Lang & Lawrence H. Summers, 1987. "Employee Crime, Monitoring, and the Efficiency Wage Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 2356, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
    5. Kuhn, Peter, 1986. "Wages, Effort, and Incentive Compatibility in Life-Cycle Employment Contracts," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(1), pages 28-49, January.
    6. Guillermo A. Calvo, 1985. "The Inefficiency of Unemployment: The Supervision Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(2), pages 373-387.
    7. Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Efficiency Wage Theories: A Partial Evaluation," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1986, Volume 1, pages 235-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Bowles, Samuel, 1985. "The Production Process in a Competitive Economy: Walrasian, Neo-Hobbesian, and Marxian Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 16-36, March.
    9. George A. Akerlof & Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Do Deferred Wages Dominate Involuntary Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device?," NBER Working Papers 2025, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Hutchens, Robert, 1986. "Delayed Payment Contracts and a Firm's Propensity to Hire Older Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(4), pages 439-457, October.
    11. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-444, June.
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