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Severance Pay, Pensions, and Efficient Mobility


  • Edward P. Lazear


This paper argues that pensions are used as severance pay devices in an efficient compensation scheme. The major points of the study are: (1) Severance pay, which takes the form of higher pension values for early retirement, is widespread. (2) A major reason for the existence of pensions is the desire to provide an incentive mechanism that can also function as an efficient severance pay device. It is incorrect to think of pensions merely as a tax-deferred savings account. (3) The wage rates that older workers receive exceed their marginal products. This is evidenced by the fact that employers are willing to buy them out with higher pensions if they retire early. These conclusions are based upon examination of a data set which was generated as part of this study. That data set contains detailed information on 244 of the largest pension plans in the country, covering about 8 million workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward P. Lazear, 1982. "Severance Pay, Pensions, and Efficient Mobility," NBER Working Papers 0854, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0854
    Note: LS PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1981. "Implicit Contracts, Moral Hazard, and Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 301-307, May.
    2. Green, Jerry & Honkapohja, Seppo, 1983. "Bilateral contracts," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 171-187, April.
    3. Richard V. Burkhauser & Joseph F. Quinn, 1983. "The Effect of Pension Plans on the Pattern of Life Cycle Compensation," NBER Chapters,in: The Measurement of Labor Cost, pages 395-420 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ann P. Bartel & Nachum Sicherman, 1990. "Technological Change and the Careers of Older Workers," NBER Working Papers 3433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:eee:labchp:v:1:y:1986:i:c:p:305-355 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Atsushi Seike, 1996. "Labor Market Implications of Social Security: Company Pension Plans, Public Pensions, and Retirement Behavior of the Elderly in Japan," NBER Chapters,in: The Economic Effects of Aging in the United States and Japan, pages 295-315 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. David Neumark, 2003. "Age Discrimination Legislation in the United States," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 21(3), pages 297-317, July.
    5. Olivia S. Mitchell & Gary S. Fields, 1983. "Economic Incentives to Retire: A Qualitative Choice Approach," NBER Working Papers 1096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Edward P. Lazear, 1985. "Incentive Effects of Pensions," NBER Chapters,in: Pensions, Labor, and Individual Choice, pages 253-282 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. David McCarthy, 2003. "A Lifecycle Analysis of Defined Benefit Pension Plans," Working Papers wp053, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    8. Edward P. Lazear & Robert L. Moore, 1988. "Pensions and Turnover," NBER Chapters,in: Pensions in the U.S. Economy, pages 163-190 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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