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When should labor contracts be nominal?


  • Antoine Martin
  • Cyril Monnet


We propose a theory to explain the choice between nominal and indexed labor contracts. We find that contracts should be indexed if prices are difficult to forecast and nominal otherwise. Our analysis is based on a principal-agent model developed by Jovanovic and Ueda (1997) in which renegotiation can take place once the nominal value of the agent's output is observed. Their model assumes that agents use pure strategy, with the strong result that only nominal contracts can be written without being renegotiated. But, in reality, we do observe indexed contracts. We resolve this weakness of their model by allowing agents to choose mixed strategies, and find that the optimal contract is indeed nominal for certain parameters. For other parameters, however, we show that the optimal contract is indexed. Our findings are consistent with two empirical regularities: that prices are more volatile with higher inflation, and that countries with high inflation tend to have indexed contracts.

Suggested Citation

  • Antoine Martin & Cyril Monnet, 2001. "When should labor contracts be nominal?," Research Working Paper RWP 01-07, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedkrw:rwp01-07

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Russell Cooper, 1990. "Predetermined Wages and Prices and the Impact of Expansionary Government Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 205-214.
    2. Gray, Jo Anna, 1976. "Wage indexation: A macroeconomic approach," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 221-235, April.
    3. Azariadis, Costas, 1978. "Escalator clauses and the allocation of cyclical risks," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 119-155, June.
    4. Costas Azariadis & Russell Cooper, 1985. "Predetermined Prices and the Allocation of Social Risks," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(2), pages 495-518.
    5. Holland, A Steven, 1995. "Inflation and Wage Indexation in the Postwar United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(1), pages 172-176, February.
    6. Jovanic, Boyan & Ueda, Masako, 1997. "Contracts and Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 700-708, August.
    7. Fudenberg, Drew & Tirole, Jean, 1990. "Moral Hazard and Renegotiation in Agency Contracts," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1279-1319, November.
    8. Guido Tabellini & Scott Freeman, 1998. "The optimality of nominal contracts," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 11(3), pages 545-562.
    9. Azariadis, Costas & Cooper, Russell, 1985. "Nominal Wage-Price Rigidity as a Rational Expectations Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 31-35, May.
    10. Martin Neil Baily, 1974. "Wages and Employment under Uncertain Demand," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 37-50.
    11. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
    12. Fischer, Stanley, 1977. "Long-Term Contracts, Rational Expectations, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 191-205, February.
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