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Do Employment Protections Reduce Productivity? Evidence from U.S. States

  • William Kerr
  • Adriana Kugler
  • David Autor

Theory predicts that mandated employment protections may reduce productivity by distorting production choices. Firms facing (non-Coasean) worker dismissal costs will curtail hiring below efficient levels and retain unproductive workers, both of which should affect productivity. These theoretical predictions have rarely been tested. We use the adoption of wrongful discharge protections by U.S. state courts over the last three decades to evaluate the link between dismissal costs and productivity. Drawing on establishment-level data from the Annual Survey of Manufacturers and the Longitudinal Business Database, our estimates suggest that wrongful discharge protections reduce employment flows and firm entry rates. Moreover, analysis of plant-level data provides evidence of capital deepening and a decline in total factor productivity following the introduction of wrongful discharge protections. This last result is potentially quite important, suggesting that mandated employment protections reduce productive efficiency as theory would suggest. However, our analysis also presents some puzzles including, most significantly, evidence of strong employment growth following adoption of dismissal protections. In light of these puzzles, we read our findings as suggestive but tentative.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2007/CES-WP-07-04.pdf
File Function: First version, 2007
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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 07-04.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:07-04
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  1. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. William R. Kerr & Ramana Nanda, 2009. "Financing Constraints and Entrepreneurship," Harvard Business School Working Papers 10-013, Harvard Business School.
  3. Kugler, Adriana D. & Pica, Giovanni, 2005. "Effects of Employment Protection on Worker and Job Flows: Evidence from the 1990 Italian Reform," CEPR Discussion Papers 5256, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Aghion, P. & Hermalin, B., 1990. "Legal Restrictions on Private Contracts Can Enhance Efficiency," DELTA Working Papers 90-14, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
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  7. Jagadeesh Sivadasan & Amil Petrin, 2007. "Job Security Does Affect Economic Efficiency, Theory, A New Statistic, and Evidence from Chile," 2007 Meeting Papers 183, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. David H. Autor & John J. Donohue & Stewart J. Schwab, 2006. "The Costs of Wrongful-Discharge Laws," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 211-231, May.
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  10. Justin Wolfers, 2005. "Measuring the Effects of Employment Protection on Job Flows: Evidence from Seasonal Cycles," Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 98, Society for Computational Economics.
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  14. Miles, Thomas J, 2000. "Common Law Exceptions to Employment at Will and U.S. Labor Markets," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 74-101, April.
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  18. Adriana D. Kugler & Gilles Saint-Paul, 2004. "How Do Firing Costs Affect Worker Flows in a World with Adverse Selection?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 553-584, July.
  19. Agell, J., 1998. "On the Benefits from Rigid Labour Markets: Norms, Market Failures, and Social Insurance," Papers 1998:17, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
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  22. MacLeod, W. Bentley & Nakavachara, Voraprapa, 2006. "Legal Default Rules: The Case of Wrongful Discharge Laws," IZA Discussion Papers 1970, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  23. Daron Acemoglu & Amy Finkelstein, 2006. "Input and Technology Choices in Regulated Industries: Evidence From the Health Care Sector," NBER Working Papers 12254, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. David H. Autor & John J. Donohue & Stewart J. Schwab, 2004. "The Employment Consequences of Wrongful-Discharge Laws: Large, Small, or None at All?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 440-446, May.
  25. Levine, David I, 1991. "Just-Cause Employment Policies in the Presence of Worker Adverse Selection," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(3), pages 294-305, July.
  26. Mortensen, Dale T & Pissarides, Christopher A, 1994. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 397-415, July.
  27. Pedro Portugal & Olivier Blanchard, 2001. "What Hides Behind an Unemployment Rate: Comparing Portuguese and U.S. Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 187-207, March.
  28. Summers, Lawrence H, 1989. "Some Simple Economics of Mandated Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 177-83, May.
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