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Do Employment Protections Reduce Productivity? Evidence from U.S. States

  • David H. Autor

    ()

    (Masachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Economics and NBER)

  • William R. Kerr

    ()

    (Harvard Business School, Entrepreneurial Management Unit)

  • Adriana D. Kugler

    ()

    (University of Houston, Department of Economics and NBER, CEPR and IZA)

Theory predicts that mandated employment protections may reduce productivity by distorting production choices. Firms facing (non-Coasean) worker dismissal costs will curtail hiring below efficient levels and retain unproductive workers, both of which should affect productivity. These theoretical predictions have rarely been tested. We use the adoption of wrongful-discharge protections by U.S. state courts over the last three decades to evaluate the link between dismissal costs and productivity. Drawing on establishment-level data from the Annual Survey of Manufacturers and the Longitudinal Business Database, our estimates suggest that wrongful-discharge protections reduce employment flows and firm entry rates. Moreover, analysis of plant-level data provides evidence of capital deepening and a decline in total factor productivity following the introduction of wrongful-discharge protections. This last result is potentially quite important, suggesting that mandated employment protections reduce productive efficiency as theory would suggest. However, our analysis also presents some puzzles including, most significantly, evidence of strong employment growth following adoption of dismissal protections. In light of these puzzles, we read our findings as suggestive but tentative.

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Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 07-048.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:07-048
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  1. William R. Kerr & Ramana Nanda, 2009. "Banking Deregulations, Financing Constraints and Firm Entry Size," Harvard Business School Working Papers 10-010, Harvard Business School, revised Oct 2009.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Amy Finkelstein, 2006. "Input and Technology Choices in Regulated Industries: Evidence From the Health Care Sector," NBER Working Papers 12254, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. W. Bentley MacLeod & Voraprapa Nakavachara, 2006. "Legal default rules: The case of wrongful discharge laws," Discussion Papers 0506-19, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  4. Griliches, Zvi, 1969. "Capital-Skill Complementarity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(4), pages 465-68, November.
  5. Saint-Paul, Gilles, 1999. "The Political Economy of Employment Protection," CEPR Discussion Papers 2109, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Levine, David I, 1991. "Just-Cause Employment Policies in the Presence of Worker Adverse Selection," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(3), pages 294-305, July.
  7. Jagadeesh Sivadasan & Amil Petrin, 2007. "Job Security Does Affect Economic Efficiency, Theory, A New Statistic, and Evidence from Chile," 2007 Meeting Papers 183, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Kugler, Adriana & Pica, Giovanni, 2008. "Effects of employment protection on worker and job flows: Evidence from the 1990 Italian reform," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 78-95, February.
  9. Eli Berman & John Bound & Zvi Griliches, 1993. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing Industries: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 4255, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Aghion, P. & Hermalin, B., 1990. "Legal Restrictions on Private Contracts Can Enhance Efficiency," DELTA Working Papers 90-14, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  11. James E. Prieger, 2004. "The Impacts of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the Entry and Exit of Retail Firms," Econometric Society 2004 North American Winter Meetings 589, Econometric Society.
  12. William Kerr & Ramana Nanda, 2009. "Financing Constraints and Entrepreneurship," NBER Working Papers 15498, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Adriana D. Kugler & Gilles Saint-Paul, 2004. "How Do Firing Costs Affect Worker Flows in a World with Adverse Selection?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 553-584, July.
  14. Kugler, Adriana & Jimeno, Juan F. & Hernanz, Virginia, 2002. "Employment Consequences of Restrictive Permanent Contracts: Evidence from Spanish Labor Market Reforms," IZA Discussion Papers 657, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Max Schanzenbach, 2003. "Exceptions to Employment at Will: Raising Firing Costs or Enforcing Life-Cycle Contracts?," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 470-504, August.
  16. David H. Autor & John J. Donohue & Stewart J. Schwab, 2004. "The Employment Consequences of Wrongful-Discharge Laws: Large, Small, or None at All?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 440-446, May.
  17. Miles, Thomas J, 2000. "Common Law Exceptions to Employment at Will and U.S. Labor Markets," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 74-101, April.
  18. Wasmer, Etienne, 2002. "Interpreting Europe and US labor markets differences: the specificity of human capital investments," Arbetsrapport 2003:9, Institute for Futures Studies.
  19. Summers, Lawrence H, 1989. "Some Simple Economics of Mandated Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 177-83, May.
  20. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/8904 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Pedro Portugal & Olivier Blanchard, 2001. "What Hides Behind an Unemployment Rate: Comparing Portuguese and U.S. Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 187-207, March.
  22. Mortensen, Dale T & Pissarides, Christopher A, 1994. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 397-415, July.
  23. Adriana Kugler adkugler@uh.edu & Giovanni Pica, 2005. "The Effects of Employment Protection on the Italian Labour Market," CSEF Working Papers 135, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  24. Winfried Koeniger & Julien Prat, 2007. "Employment Protection, Product Market Regulation and Firm Selection," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(521), pages 302-332, 06.
  25. Justin Wolfers, 2005. "Measuring the Effects of Employment Protection on Job Flows: Evidence from Seasonal Cycles," Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 98, Society for Computational Economics.
  26. Lazear, Edward P, 1990. "Job Security Provisions and Employment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(3), pages 699-726, August.
  27. David H. Autor & John J. Donohue III & Stewart J. Schwab, 2003. "The Costs of Wrongful-Discharge Laws," NBER Working Papers 9425, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. Agell, J., 1998. "On the Benefits from Rigid Labour Markets: Norms, Market Failures, and Social Insurance," Papers 1998:17, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  29. Adriana Kugler & Juan F. Jimeno & Virginia Hernanz, . "Employment Consequences of Restrictive Permanent Contracts: Evidence from Spanish Labor Market Reforms," Working Papers 2003-14, FEDEA.
  30. Eric J. Bartelsman & Wayne Gray, 1996. "The NBER Manufacturing Productivity Database," NBER Technical Working Papers 0205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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