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Estimating the Wage Elasticity of Labour Supply to a Firm: What evidence is there for Monopsony?

  • Booth, Alison L
  • Katic, Pamela

In this paper we estimate the elasticity of the labour supply to a firm, using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. Estimation of this elasticity is of particular interest not only in its own right but also because of its relevance to the debate about the competitiveness of labour markets. The essence of monopsonistically competitive labour markets is that labour supply to a firm is imperfectly elastic with respect to the wage rate. The intuition is that, where workers have heterogeneous preferences or face mobility costs, firms can offer lower wages without immediately losing their workforce. This is in contrast to the perfectly competitive extreme, in which the elasticity is infinite. Therefore a simple test of whether labour markets are perfectly or imperfectly competitive involves estimating the elasticity of the labour supply to a firm. We find that the Australian wage elasticity of labour supply to a firm is around 0.71, only slightly smaller than the figure of 0.75 reported by Manning (2003) for the UK. These estimates are so far from the perfectly competitive assumption of an infinite elasticity that it would be difficult to make a case that labour markets are perfectly competitive.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7993.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7993
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  1. 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.
  2. Alison L. Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2005. "Testing Some Predictions of Human Capital Theory: New Training Evidence from Britain," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 391-394, May.
  3. Barth, Erling & Dale-Olsen, Harald, 2009. "Monopsonistic discrimination, worker turnover, and the gender wage gap," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(5), pages 589-597, October.
  4. Ransom, Michael R. & Oaxaca, Ronald L., 2005. "Sex Differences in Pay in a "New Monopsony" Model of the Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 1870, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Boris Hirsch & Thorsten Schank & Claus Schnabel, 2010. "Differences in Labor Supply to Monopsonistic Firms and the Gender Pay Gap: An Empirical Analysis Using Linked Employer-Employee Data from Germany," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(2), pages 291-330, 04.
  6. 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.
  7. Alison L. Booth & Marco Francesconi & Carlos Garcia-Serrano, 1999. "Job Tenure and Job Mobility in Britain," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(1), pages 43-70, October.
  8. Albrecht, James W & Axell, Bo, 1984. "An Equilibrium Model of Search Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(5), pages 824-40, October.
  9. 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.
  10. Alison Booth & Pamela Katic, 2008. "Men at Work in a Land Down-under," CEPR Discussion Papers 586, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  11. Mark Wooden & Nicole Watson, 2007. "The HILDA Survey and its Contribution to Economic and Social Research (So Far)," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(261), pages 208-231, 06.
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