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The Real Thin Theory: Monopsony in Modern Labour Markets

  • Alan Manning

Models of "modern monopsony" based on job differentiation and/or search frictions seem to give employers non-negligible market power over their workers while avoiding the assumption of "classical monopsony" that employers are large in relation to the size of the labour market that many labour economists find implausible. But, this paper argues that this is somewhat of an illusion because modern theories of monopsony do assume that labour markets are "thin", although in a more subtle way than the classical models. The paper also argues that there is evidence that labour markets are "thin" in a way that gives employers some market power over their workers. It presents a model that combines both the job differentiation and search models of modern monopsony and derives predictions about the relationship between wages and commuting. The paper uses UK data to argue that there is good evidence for these predictions: that there is a robust correlation between wages and commuting distance that is the result of worker job search in a thin labour market, that those with longer commutes are not, on average, fully compensated for them and that there is substantial "wasteful" commuting.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0564.

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Date of creation: May 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0564
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. Hamilton, Jonathan & Thisse, Jacques-Francois & Zenou, Yves, 2000. "Wage Competition with Heterogeneous Workers and Firms," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 453-72, July.
  2. Alan Manning, 2010. "Imperfect competition in the labour market," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28729, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. BRUECKNER, Jan K. & THISSE, Jacques-François & ZENOU, Yves, . "Why is central Paris rich and downtown Detroit poor? An amenity-based theory," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1370, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  4. Helsley, Robert W. & Strange, William C., 1990. "Matching and agglomeration economies in a system of cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 189-212, September.
  5. Benito, A. & Oswald, A., 2000. "Commuting in Great Britain in the 1990s," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 560, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  6. Madden, Janice Fanning, 1985. "Urban wage gradients: Empirical evidence," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 291-301, November.
  7. Holzer Harry J. & Ihlanfeldt Keith R. & Sjoquist David L., 1994. "Work, Search, and Travel among White and Black Youth," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 320-345, May.
  8. Hwang, Hae-shin & Mortensen, Dale T & Reed, W Robert, 1998. "Hedonic Wages and Labor Market Search," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(4), pages 815-47, October.
  9. BRUECKNER, Jan K. & THISSE , Jacques-François & ZENOU, Yves, . "Local labor markets, job matching, and urban location," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1545, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  10. Small, Kenneth A. & Song, Shunfeng, 1992. ""Wasteful" Commuting: A Resolution," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt5142n2ts, University of California Transportation Center.
  11. Zax, Jeffrey S., 1991. "Compensation for commutes in labor and housing markets," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 192-207, September.
  12. Alan Manning & Ted To, 2002. "Oligopsony and Monopsonistic Competition in Labor Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 155-174, Spring.
  13. Steven C. Salop, 1979. "Monopolistic Competition with Outside Goods," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 141-156, Spring.
  14. Frost, Martin & Linneker, Brian & Spence, Nigel, 1998. "Excess or wasteful commuting in a selection of British cities," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 529-538, September.
  15. Albrecht, James W & Axell, Bo, 1983. "An Equilibrium Model of Search Unemployment," Working Paper Series 99, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  16. Small, K.A. & Gomez-Ibanez, J.A., 1996. "Urban Transportation," Papers 95-96-4, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  17. Burdett, Kenneth & Mortensen, Dale T, 1998. "Wage Differentials, Employer Size, and Unemployment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(2), pages 257-73, May.
  18. V. Bhaskar & Ted To, 1996. "Minimum Wages for Ronald McDonald Monopsonies: A Theory of Monopsonistic Competition," Labor and Demography 9603001, EconWPA, revised 21 May 1996.
  19. Hamilton, Bruce W, 1989. "Wasteful Commuting Again," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1497-1504, December.
  20. David Merriman & Toru Ohkawara & Tsutomu Suzuki, 1995. "Excess Commuting in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area: Measurement and Policy Simulations," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 32(1), pages 69-85, February.
  21. Hamilton, Bruce W, 1982. "Wasteful Commuting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 1035-51, October.
  22. Timothy J. Gronberg & W. Robert Reed, 1994. "Estimating Workers' Marginal Willingness to Pay for Job Attributes Using Duration Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(3), pages 911-931.
  23. Roell, Ailsa, 1982. "Wasteful Commuting: Appendix," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 1052-53, October.
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