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When should labor contracts be nominal?

  • Antoine Martin
  • Cyril Monnet

This paper proposes a theory of when labor contract should be nominal or, instead, indexed. We find that, contracts should be indexed if prices are difficult to forecast and nominal otherwise. We use a principal-agent model developed by Jovanovic and Ueda (1997), with moral hazard, renegotiation, and where a signal (the nominal value of the sales of the agent) is observed before renegotiation takes place. We show that their result, that the optimal contract is nominal when agents must choose pure strategies, is robust to the case where agents can choose mixed strategies in the sense that, for certain parameters, the optimal contract is still nominal. For other parameters, however, we show that the optimal contract is indexed. Our findings are consistent with two empirical regularities. First prices are more volatile with higher inflation and, second, countries with high inflation tend to have indexed contracts. Our theory suggests that it is because prices are difficult to forecast in high inflation countries that contracts are indexed.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Working Papers with number 603.

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Date of creation: 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:603
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  1. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
  2. Guido Tabellini & Scott Freeman, 1998. "The optimality of nominal contracts," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 545-562.
  3. Martin Neil Baily, 1974. "Wages and Employment under Uncertain Demand," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 37-50.
  4. 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.
  5. Jovanic, Boyan & Ueda, Masako, 1997. "Contracts and Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 700-708, August.
  6. Fudenberg, Drew & Tirole, Jean, 1990. "Moral Hazard and Renegotiation in Agency Contracts," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1279-1319, November.
  7. 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.
  8. Gray, Jo Anna, 1976. "Wage indexation: A macroeconomic approach," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 221-235, April.
  9. Azariadis, Costas, 1978. "Escalator clauses and the allocation of cyclical risks," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 119-155, June.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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 172-76, February.
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