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Reservation wages and the wage flexibility puzzle

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  • Koenig, Felix
  • Manning, Alan
  • Petrongolo, Barbara

Abstract

Wages are only mildly cyclical, implying that shocks to labour demand have a larger short-run impact on unemployment rather than wages, at odds with the quantitative predictions of the canonical search and matching model. This paper provides an alternative perspective on the wage flexibility puzzle, explaining why the canonical model can only match the observed cyclicality of wages if the replacement ratio is implausibly high. We show that this failure remains even if wages are only occasionally renegotiated, unless the persistence in unemployment is implausibly low. We then provide some evidence that part of the problem comes from the implicit model for the determination of reservation wages. Estimates for the UK and West Germany provide evidence that reservation wages are much less cyclical than predicted even conditional on the observed level of wage cyclicality. We present evidence that elements of perceived “fairness” or “reference points” in reservation wages may address this model failure.

Suggested Citation

  • Koenig, Felix & Manning, Alan & Petrongolo, Barbara, 2014. "Reservation wages and the wage flexibility puzzle," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60613, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:60613
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    1. Reservation Wages and the Wage Flexibility Puzzle
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2016-02-29 19:59:32

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    3. Samuel Bentolila & J. Ignacio García-Pérez & Marcel Jansen, 2017. "Are the Spanish long-term unemployed unemployable?," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 1-41, March.
    4. Adamopoulou, Effrosyni & Villanueva, Ernesto, 2020. "Wage Determination and the Bite of Collective Contracts in Italy and Spain: Evidence from the Metalworking Industry," IZA Discussion Papers 13542, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Effrosyni Adamopoulou & Marta De Philippis & Enrico Sette & Eliana Viviano, 2020. "The Long Run Earnings Effects of a Credit Market Disruption," CRC TR 224 Discussion Paper Series crctr224_2020_169v3, University of Bonn and University of Mannheim, Germany.
    6. Le Barbanchon, Thomas & Rathelot, Roland & Roulet, Alexandra, 2019. "Unemployment insurance and reservation wages: Evidence from administrative data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 1-17.
    7. Kesternich, Iris & Schumacher, Heiner & Siflinger, Bettina & Valder, Franziska, 2022. "Reservation wages and labor supply," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 583-607.
    8. Sascha Drahs & Luke Haywood & Amelie Schiprowski, 2018. "Job Search with Subjective Wage Expectations," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1725, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    9. Samuel Bentolila & J. Ignacio García-Pérez & Marcel Jansen, 2017. "Are the Spanish Long-Term Unemployed Unemployable?," Working Papers wp2018_1707, CEMFI.
    10. Fedorets, Alexandra & Shupe, Cortnie, 2021. "Great expectations: Reservation wages and minimum wage reform," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 183(C), pages 397-419.
    11. Miura, Takahiro & Inukai, Keigo & Sasaki, Masaru, 2019. "Testing the Reference-Dependent Model: A Laboratory Search Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 12378, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Dickson, Alex & Fongoni, Marco, 2019. "Asymmetric reference-dependent reciprocity, downward wage rigidity, and the employment contract," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 409-429.
    13. Adamopoulou, Effrosyni & Villanueva, Ernesto, 2022. "Wage determination and the bite of collective contracts in Italy and Spain," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    14. Deschacht, Nick & Vansteenkiste, Sarah, 2021. "The effect of unemployment duration on reservation wages: Evidence from Belgium," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    15. Lecca, Patrizio & Persyn, Damiaan & Sakkas, Stelios, 2023. "Capital-skill complementarity and regional inequality: A spatial general equilibrium analysis," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C).
    16. Stefano DellaVigna & Attila Lindner & Balázs Reizer & Johannes F. Schmieder, 2017. "Reference-Dependent Job Search: Evidence from Hungary," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 132(4), pages 1969-2018.
    17. Consolo, Agostino & Foroni, Claudia & Martínez Hernández, Catalina, 2021. "A mixed frequency BVAR for the euro area labour market," Working Paper Series 2601, European Central Bank.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Reservation wages; wage cyclicality; reference points.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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