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Reference Dependence and Labor Market Fluctuations

In: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2013, Volume 28

  • Kfir Eliaz
  • Ran Spiegler

We incorporate reference-dependent worker behavior into a search-matching model of the labor market, in which firms have all the bargaining power and productivity follows a log-linear AR(1) process. Motivated by Akerlof (1982) and Bewley (1999), we assume that existing workers' output falls stochastically from its normal level when their wage falls below a "reference point", which (following Kőszegi and Rabin (2006)) is equal to their lagged-expected wage. We formulate the model game-theoretically and show that it has a unique subgame perfect equilibrium that exhibits the following properties: existing workers experience downward wage rigidity, as well as destruction of output following negative shocks due to layoffs or loss of morale; newly hired workers earn relatively flexible wages, but not as much as in the benchmark without reference dependence; market tightness is more volatile than under this benchmark. We relate these findings to the debate over the "Shimer puzzle" (Shimer (2005)).

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jonathan A. Parker & Michael Woodford, 2014. "NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2013, Volume 28," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number park13-1, June.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12938.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12938
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