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Equilibrium Incentive Contracts

  • Moen, Espen R.
  • Rosén, Åsa

    ()

    (Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University)

We study a labour market in which firms can observe workers’ output but not their effort, and in which a worker’s productivity in a given firm depends on a worker-firm specific component, unobservable for the firm. Firms offer wage contracts that optimally trade off effort and wage costs. As a result, employed workers enjoy rents, which in turn create unemployment. We show that the incentive power of the equilibrium wage contract is constrained socially efficient in the absence of unemployment benefits. We then apply the model to explain the recent increase in performance-pay contracts. Within our model, this can be explained by three different factors: (i) increased importance of non-observable effort, (ii) a fall in the marginal tax rate, (iii) a reduction in the heterogeneity of workers performing the same task. The likely effect of all three factors is an increase in the equilibrium unemployment rate.

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Paper provided by Swedish Institute for Social Research in its series Working Paper Series with number 3/2003.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:sofiwp:2003_003
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  1. Oliver Hart & Bengt Holmstrom, 1986. "The Theory of Contracts," Working papers 418, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Acemoglu, Daron & Shimer, Robert, 1999. "Holdups and Efficiency with Search Frictions," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 40(4), pages 827-49, November.
  3. Daron Acemoglu, 1998. "Changes in Unemployment and Wage Inequality: An Alternative Theory and Some Evidence," NBER Working Papers 6658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ritter, Joseph A & Taylor, Lowell J, 1994. "Workers as Creditors: Performance Bonds and Efficiency Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 694-704, June.
  5. Frank, Robert H, 1984. "Are Workers Paid Their Marginal Products?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 549-71, September.
  6. Macleod, W.B. & Malcomson, J.M., 1989. "Wage Premiums And Profit Maximization In Efficiency Wage Models," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 114.89, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  7. Weitzman, Martin L, 1985. "The Simple Macroeconomics of Profit Sharing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 937-53, December.
  8. Carmichael, Lorne, 1985. "Can Unemployment Be Involuntary? Comment [Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device]," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1213-14, December.
  9. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  10. Montgomery, James D, 1991. "Equilibrium Wage Dispersion and Interindustry Wage Differentials," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(1), pages 163-79, February.
  11. Foster, James E & Wan, Henry Y, Jr, 1984. "Involuntary Unemployment as a Principal-Agent Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 476-84, June.
  12. Edward P. Lazear, 1996. "Performance Pay and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 5672, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
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