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Opportunistic Behavior by Firms in Implicit Pension Contracts

Author

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  • Christopher Cornwell
  • Stuart Dorsey
  • Nasser Mehrzad

Abstract

Several studies have established that under the most common form of pension coverage, benefits accrue disproportionately near the end of a worker's career. Such backloading establishes a penalty for early quitting but may also create an incentive for opportunistic firm behavior. Because benefits generally are a function of highest earnings, when nominal earnings are expected to rise, an employer can reduce pension liabilities by discharging workers prior to retirement. This paper uses the National Longitudinal Survey of Mature Men to test whether such actions by employers are systematic. We estimate that pension-covered workers with mean losses are less likely to be discharged. Unexpected increases in pension losses due to increases in inflation, however, raise the risk of discharge. We find no evidence that the minimum vesting standards of the Employees' Retirement Income Security Act reduces the likelihood of discharge for older workers who previously were not vested. These results are consistent with an implicit pension contract under which employer compliance is enforced by reputation.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Cornwell & Stuart Dorsey & Nasser Mehrzad, 1991. "Opportunistic Behavior by Firms in Implicit Pension Contracts," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(4), pages 704-725.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:26:y:1991:i:4:p:704-725
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. David Neumark, 2008. "The Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Challenge of Population Aging," NBER Working Papers 14317, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1993. "The Role of Pensions in the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Johnson, Richard W, 1996. "The Impact of Human Capital Investments on Pension Benefits," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(3), pages 520-554, July.
    4. David Neumark & Ian Burn & Patrick Button, 2015. "Is It Harder for Older Workers to Find Jobs? New and Improved Evidence from a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 21669, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Friedberg Leora & Owyang Michael T & Sinclair Tara M, 2006. "Searching For Better Prospects: Endogenizing Falling Job Tenure and Private Pension Coverage," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 1-42, August.
    6. Bowen, Robert M. & DuCharme, Larry & Shores, D., 1995. "Stakeholders' implicit claims and accounting method choice," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 255-295, December.
    7. David Neumark & Steven A. Sharpe, 1992. "Hostile Takeovers and Expropriation of Extramarginal Wages: A Test," NBER Working Papers 4101, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Robert L. Clark & Joseph F. Quinn, 1999. "Effects of Pensions on Labor Markets and Retirement," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 431, Boston College Department of Economics.
    9. Leora Friedberg & Michael T. Owyang, 2004. "Explaining the evolution of pension structure and job tenure," Working Papers 2002-022, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    10. Neumark, David & Song, Joanne, 2013. "Do stronger age discrimination laws make Social Security reforms more effective?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 1-16.
    11. Idson, Todd L & Valletta, Robert G, 1996. "Seniority, Sectoral Decline, and Employee Retention: An Analysis of Layoff Unemployment Spells," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(4), pages 654-676, October.

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