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Efficiency Wage Theories: A Partial Evaluation

In: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1986, Volume 1

  • Lawrence F. Katz

This paper surveys recent developments in the literature on efficiency wage theories of unemployment. Efficiency wage models have in common the property that in equilibrium firms may find it profitable to pay wages in excess of market clearing. High wages can help reduce turnover, elicit worker effort, prevent worker collective action, and attract higher quality employees. Simple versions of efficiency wage models can explain normal involuntary unemployment,segmented labor markets, and wage differentials across firms and industries for workers with similar productive characteristics. Deferred payment schemes andother labor market bonding mechanisms appear to be able to solve some efficiency wage problems without resultant job rationing and involuntary unemployment. A wide variety of evidence on inter-industry wage differences is analyzed. Efficiency wage models appear useful in explaining the observed pattern of wage differentials.The models also provide several potential mechanisms for cyclical fluctuations in response to aggregate demand shocks.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Stanley Fischer, 1986. "NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1986, Volume 1," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fisc86-1, December.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 4248.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:4248
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. William T. Dickens & Kevin Lang, 1984. "A Test of Dual Labor Market Theory," NBER Working Papers 1314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Olivier J. Blanchard & Nobuhiro Kiyotaki, 1985. "Monopolistic Competition, Aggregate Demand Externalities and Real Effects of Nominal Money," NBER Working Papers 1770, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ben S. Bernanke & James L. Powell, 1984. "The Cyclical Behavior of Industrial Labor Markets: A Comparison of the Pre-War and Post-War Eras," NBER Working Papers 1376, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Katharine G. Abraham & Henry S. Farber, 1986. "Job Duration, Seniority, and Earnings," NBER Working Papers 1819, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Katharine G. Abraham & Lawrence F. Katz, 1984. "Cyclical Unemployment: Sectoral Shifts or Aggregate Disturbances?," NBER Working Papers 1410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Farrell Bloch & Mark S. Kuskin, 1978. "Wage determination in the union and nonunion sectors," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 31(2), pages 183-192, January.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Joseph Altonji & R. Shakotko, 1985. "Do Wages Rise with Job Seniority?," Working Papers 567, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    10. Calvo, Guillermo, 1979. "Quasi-Walrasian Theories of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 102-07, May.
    11. William T. Dickens & Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin Lang, 1986. "Are Efficiency Wages Efficient?," NBER Working Papers 1935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Steven G. Allen, 1984. "Trade unions, absenteeism, and exit-voice," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 37(3), pages 331-345, April.
    13. Brown, Charles & Medoff, James, 1989. "The Employer Size-Wage Effect," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1027-59, October.
    14. Lorne Carmichael, 1983. "Firm-Specific Human Capital and Promotion Ladders," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(1), pages 251-258, Spring.
    15. William T. Dickens, 1986. "Wages, Employment and the Threat of Collective Action by Workers," NBER Working Papers 1856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
    17. Calvo, Guillermo A & Wellisz, Stanislaw, 1978. "Supervision, Loss of Control, and the Optimum Size of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 943-52, October.
    18. 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 666-89, August.
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