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How Close to an Auction Is the Labor Market? Employee Risk Aversion, Income Uncertainty, and Optimal Labor Contracts


  • James N. Brown


Section I of this paper develops a model of income insurance in the labor market. The model differs from those of previous analyses in its focus on quantitative implications regarding the degree to which wages diverge from marginal value products, both in time-series and in cross-section data. Sections II and III present empirical evidence consistent with these implications. The main empirical finding is that of short-term divergence, but long-term equality between wages and marginal value products. The labor market appears to differ from an auction market only in the short run, but this short-run divergence considerably reduces the potential variability of employees' realized wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • James N. Brown, 1980. "How Close to an Auction Is the Labor Market? Employee Risk Aversion, Income Uncertainty, and Optimal Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0603, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0603
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George A. Akerlof & Hajime Miyazaki, 1980. "The Implicit Contract Theory of Unemployment meets the Wage Bill Argument," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(2), pages 321-338.
    2. H. M. Polemarchakis, 1979. "Implicit Contracts and Employment Theory," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(1), pages 97-108.
    3. Azariadis, Costas, 1978. "Escalator clauses and the allocation of cyclical risks," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 119-155, June.
    4. Grossman, Herschel I., 1978. "Risk shifting, layoffs, and seniority," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 661-686, November.
    5. Parsons, Donald O, 1972. "Specific Human Capital: An Application to Quit Rates and Layoff Rates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(6), pages 1120-1143, Nov.-Dec..
    6. Feldstein, Martin S, 1976. "Temporary Layoffs in the Theory of Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(5), pages 937-957, October.
    7. Marc Nerlove, 1967. "Recent Empirical Studies of the CES and Related Production Functions," NBER Chapters,in: The Theory and Empirical Analysis of Production, pages 55-136 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
    9. Mayers, David & Thaler, Richard, 1979. "Sticky Wages and Implicit Contracts: A Transactional Approach," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 17(4), pages 559-574, October.
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