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Motivation and Markets

  • W. Bentley MacLeod

    (Boston College)

  • James Malcomson

    (University of Southampton)

In standard shirking models of efficiency wages, workers are motivated only by high wages. Yet 23% of young US workers report receiving some form of performance pay. This paper extends the efficiency wage framework using the theory of self-enforcing agreements to allow for performance pay in the form of bonuses. The result is a simple model of wage formation that helps explain a number of apparently unrelated phenomena in labor markets. First, in efficient markets performance pay is preferred to an efficiency wage when the cost of having a job vacant is low and qualified workers are in short supply. Second, more capital intensive industries offer higher pay than less capital intensive industries, as observed in studies of inter-industry wages differentials. Third, sustaining an efficient outcome requires a social convention similar to the notion of a fair wage, although the outcome itself is determined by fundamentals and not by exogenously imposed notions of what is fair. Finally, a two-sector version of the model makes some predictions about the relationships between turnover and wages and between wages, growth and unemployment.

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File URL: http://fmwww.bc.edu/EC-P/wp339.pdf
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Paper provided by Boston College Department of Economics in its series Boston College Working Papers in Economics with number 339..

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Length: 32 pages Classificatin - JEL: D82, J41, O15
Date of creation: 01 Jan 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:339
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Web page: http://fmwww.bc.edu/EC/
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  1. Krueger, Alan B & Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Efficiency Wages and the Inter-industry Wage Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 259-93, March.
  2. Charles Brown, 1990. "Firms' Choice of Method of Pay," NBER Working Papers 3065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bulow, Jeremy I & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "A Theory of Dual Labor Markets with Application to Industrial Policy,Discrimination, and Keynesian Unemployment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 376-414, July.
  4. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  5. William T. Dickens & Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Interindustry Wage Differences and Industry Characteristics," NBER Working Papers 2014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Kremer, Michael, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 551-75, August.
  7. Raff, Daniel M.G., 1988. "Wage Determination Theory and the Five-Dollar Day at Ford," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(02), pages 387-399, June.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  9. W. Bentley MacLeod, 1997. "Complexity, Contract and the Employment Relationship," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 342., Boston College Department of Economics.
  10. Abowd, J.M. & Kramarz, F. & Margolis, D.N., 1995. "High-Wage Workers and High-Wage Firms," Cahiers de recherche 9503, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en ├ęconomie quantitative, CIREQ.
  11. Moene, Karl Ove, 1988. "A reformulation of the Harris-Todaro mechanism with endogenous wages," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 387-390.
  12. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  13. Carmichael, Lorne, 1985. "Can Unemployment Be Involuntary? Comment [Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device]," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1213-14, December.
  14. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  15. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-42, March.
  16. Abreu, Dilip, 1988. "On the Theory of Infinitely Repeated Games with Discounting," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 383-96, March.
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