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Layoffs as Part of an Optimal Incentive Mix: Theory and Evidence

Listed author(s):
  • Anders Frederiksen

    ()

    (Stanford University)

  • Elõd Takáts

    ()

    (Princeton University)

Firms offer highly complex contracts to their employees. These contracts contain a mix of various incentives, such as fixed wages, bonuses, promise of promotion, and threat of firing. This paper aims at explaining the reason why this incentive- mix arises. In particular, the model focuses on why firms are combining promotions and bonuses with firing. The theoretical model proposed is a job-assignment model with heterogeneous employees. In this model the firm is concerned about job assignment, because the overall productivity of the firm depends upon the quality of the employees and their allocation to jobs. The model shows that firing has a dual role. Firing creates incentives for the employees, and it is used as a sorting device that allows the firm to improve workforce quality. Thus, quality-concerned firms might want to combine cost-efficient incentives such as promotions and bonuses with firing. To comply with the Gibbons and Waldman critique, a large set of the model’s broader predictions is stated explicitly and tested on the personnel records from a large pharmaceutical company. The model’s predictions are shown to be consistent with the data.

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File URL: http://www.mnb.hu/letoltes/wp2006-2.pdf
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Paper provided by Magyar Nemzeti Bank (Central Bank of Hungary) in its series MNB Working Papers with number 2006/2.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: 2006
Handle: RePEc:mnb:wpaper:2006/2
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.mnb.hu/

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  1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
  2. Baker, George P & Jensen, Michael C & Murphy, Kevin J, 1988. " Compensation and Incentives: Practice vs. Theory," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 593-616, July.
  3. George Baker & Michael Gibbs & Bengt Holmstrom, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-955.
  4. James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1981. "Are Those Paid More Really More Productive? The Case of Experience," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 16(2), pages 186-216.
  5. W. Bentley MacLeod & Daniel Parent, 1999. "Job characteristics, wages, and the employment contract," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 13-27.
  6. Calvo, Guillermo A & Wellisz, Stanislaw, 1979. "Hierarchy, Ability, and Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 991-1010, October.
  7. Bentley W. MacLeod, 2003. "Optimal Contracting with Subjective Evaluation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 216-240, March.
  8. Christopher Ferrall & Bruce Shearer, 1999. "Incentives and Transactions Costs Within the Firm: Estimating an Agency Model Using Payroll Records," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 309-338.
  9. Michael Waldman, 1984. "Job Assignments, Signalling, and Efficiency," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 255-267, Summer.
  10. Henry S. Farber & Robert Gibbons, 1996. "Learning and Wage Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(4), pages 1007-1047.
  11. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
  12. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1998. "Motivation and Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 388-411, June.
  13. repec:eme:rlepps:v:18:y:1999:i:1999:p:177-242 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-1156.
  15. James A. Mirrlees, 1976. "The Optimal Structure of Incentives and Authority Within an Organization," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 7(1), pages 105-131, Spring.
  16. James L. Medoff & Katharine G. Abraham, 1980. "Experience, Performance, and Earnings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 95(4), pages 703-736.
  17. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-580, June.
  18. Robert Gibbons & Michael Waldman, 1999. "A Theory of Wage and Promotion Dynamics Inside Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1321-1358.
  19. Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 1999. "Careers in organizations: Theory and evidence," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2373-2437 Elsevier.
  20. J. Luis Guasch & Andrew Weiss, 1980. "Wages as Sorting Mechanisms in Competitive Markets with Asymmetric Information: A Theory of Testing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(4), pages 653-664.
  21. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-444, June.
  22. Gibbs, Michael, 1995. "Incentive compensation in a corporate hierarchy," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 247-277, April.
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