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Has compensation become more flexible?

  • Sandra A. Cannon
  • Bruce C. Fallick
  • Michael Lettau
  • Raven Saks

In recent years, numerous observers have argued that global competition, increased reliance on contingent workers, and the breakdown of implicit contracts have made compensation practices in the United States more flexible; in particular, employers have become more concerned with how an employee's pay compares to that in other firms and less concerned with considerations of equity or relative pay within the firm. This paper uses establishment-level data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Cost Index program to examine this claim by asking whether the variances of compensation within and between establishments have moved in a more "flexible" direction over the 1980s and 1990s. We find evidence consistent with increased flexibility.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2000-27.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2000-27
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  1. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  2. Frank, Robert H, 1984. "Are Workers Paid Their Marginal Products?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 549-71, September.
  3. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1988. "Fairness and Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 44-49, May.
  4. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  5. Campbell, Carl M, III & Kamlani, Kunal S, 1997. "The Reasons for Wage Rigidity: Evidence from a Survey of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 759-89, August.
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