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Information Channels in Labor Markets. On the Resilience of Referral Hiring

  • Alessandra Casella

    (Columbia University)

  • Nobuyuki Hanaki

    (Earth Institute, Columbia University)

Economists and sociologists disagree over markets' potential to assume functions typically performed by networks of personal connections, first among them the transmission of information. This paper begins from a model of labor markets where social ties are stronger between similar individuals and firms employing productive workers prefer to rely on personal referrals than to hire on the anonymous market (Montgomery (1991). However, we allow workers in the market to engage in a costly action that can signal their high productivity, and ask whether the possibility of signaling reduces the reliance on the network. We find that the network is remarkably resilient. To be effective signaling must fulfill two contradictory requirements: unless the signal is extremely precise, it must be expensive or it is not informative; but it must be cheap, or the network can undercut it.

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Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2005.37.

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Date of creation: Mar 2005
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Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2005.37
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  1. Mortensen, D. T. & Vishwanath, T., 1995. "Personal contacts and earnings: It is who you know!," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 103-104, March.
  2. Harry J. Holzer, 1986. "Search Method Use by Unemployed Youth," NBER Working Papers 1859, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Michele Pellizzari, 2010. "Do Friends and Relatives Really Help in Getting a Good Job?," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 63(3), pages 494-510, April.
  4. Javier Suarez & Samuel Bentolila & Claudio Michelacci, 2004. "Social Contacts and Occupational Choice," 2004 Meeting Papers 593, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Yannis M. Ioannides & Linda Datcher Loury, 2002. "Job Information Networks, Neighborhood Effects and Inequality," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0217, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  6. Antoni Calvó-Armengol & Matthew O. Jackson, 2004. "The Effects of Social Networks on Employment and Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 426-454, June.
  7. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  8. Saloner, Garth, 1985. "Old Boy Networks as Screening Mechanisms," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(3), pages 255-67, July.
  9. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-50, October.
  10. Montgomery, James D, 1991. "Social Networks and Labor-Market Outcomes: Toward an Economic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1407-18, December.
  11. Tassier, Troy & Menczer, Filippo, 2008. "Social network structure, segregation, and equality in a labor market with referral hiring," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 66(3-4), pages 514-528, June.
  12. Kranton, Rachel E, 1996. "Reciprocal Exchange: A Self-Sustaining System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 830-51, September.
  13. Luigi Pistaferri, 1999. "Informal Networks in the Italian Labor Market," Giornale degli Economisti, GDE (Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia), Bocconi University, vol. 58(3-4), pages 355-375, December.
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