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Implicit Contracts, Unemployment, and Labor Market Segmentation

  • Altmann, Steffen

    ()

    (University of Copenhagen)

  • Falk, Armin

    ()

    (University of Bonn)

  • Huffman, David B.

    ()

    (University of Oxford)

We analyze the impact of imperfect contract enforcement on the emergence of unemployment. In an experimental labor market where trading parties can form long-term employment relationships, we compare a work environment where effort is observable, but not verifiable to a situation where explicit contracts are feasible. Our main result shows that unemployment is much higher when third-party contract enforcement is absent. Unemployment is involuntary, being caused by firms' employment and contracting policy. Moreover, we show that implicit contracting can lead to a segmentation of the labor market. Firms in both segments earn similar profits, but workers in the secondary sector face much less favorable conditions than their counterparts in primary-sector jobs.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5001.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5001
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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald & Peter Sanfey, 1992. "Wages, Profits and Rent-Sharing," NBER Working Papers 4222, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 1999. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 106-134, February.
  4. Martin Brown & Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr, 2004. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 747-780, 05.
  5. Armin Falk & James J. Heckman, 2009. "Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," CESifo Working Paper Series 2894, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1989. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 447-80, March.
  7. Sebastian Kube & Michel André Maréchal & Clemens Puppe, 2010. "The currency of reciprocity - gift-exchange in the workplace," IEW - Working Papers 377, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Aug 2011.
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  9. Krueger, Alan B & Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Efficiency Wages and the Inter-industry Wage Structure," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 259-93, March.
  10. Verhoogen, Eric & Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2004. "Fairness and Freight-Handlers: Local Labor-Market Conditions and Wage-Fairness Perceptions in a Trucking Firm," IZA Discussion Papers 1352, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. 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.
  12. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  13. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
  14. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  15. Jeremy I. Bulow & Lawrence H. Summers, 1985. "A Theory of Dual Labor Markets with Application to Industrial Policy, Discrimination and Keynesian Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 1666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Riedl, Arno, 1996. "Involuntary Unemployment and Non-compensating Wage Differentials in an Experimental Labour Market," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(434), pages 106-21, January.
  17. 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.
  18. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  19. 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.
  20. Joel Sobel, 2006. "For Better or Forever: Formal versus Informal Enforcement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 271-298, April.
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