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Efficient Wage Dispersion


  • Acemoglu, Daron
  • Shimer, Robert


In market economies identical workers appear to receive very different wages, violating the ‘law of one price’ of Walrasian markets. It is argued in this paper that in the absence of a Walrasian auctioneer to coordinate trade: (i) wage dispersion among identical workers is very often an equilibrium phenomenon; and (ii) such dispersion is necessary for a market economy to function. The paper analyses an environment in which firms post wages and workers may, at a small cost, observe one or more of the posted wages, i.e. search, before deciding where to apply. Both with homogeneous and heterogeneous forms, equilibrium wage dispersion is necessary for the economy to approximate efficiency. Without wage dispersion, workers do not search, and wages are depressed. As a result: (a) there is excessive entry of firms; and (b) because, in the absence of search, high-productivity firms cannot attract workers faster than low-productivity firms, their relative profitability is reduced, and technology choices are distorted.

Suggested Citation

  • Acemoglu, Daron & Shimer, Robert, 1997. "Efficient Wage Dispersion," CEPR Discussion Papers 1572, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:1572

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Marimon, Ramon & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 1999. "Unemployment vs. Mismatch of Talents: Reconsidering Unemployment Benefits," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(455), pages 266-291, April.
    2. Daron Acemoglu, 1999. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1259-1278, December.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & Robert Shimer, 1999. "Efficient Unemployment Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(5), pages 893-928, October.
    4. repec:eee:labchp:v:3:y:1999:i:pb:p:2567-2627 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Fabien Postel-Vinay & Jean-Marc Robin, 2002. "Equilibrium Wage Dispersion with Worker and Employer Heterogeneity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(6), pages 2295-2350, November.

    More about this item


    Efficiency; Search; Search Intensity; Sorting; Wage Dispersion; Wage Posting;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts


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