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Do Employment Protections Reduce Productivity? Evidence from U.S. States

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  • David H. Autor
  • William R. Kerr
  • Adriana D. Kugler

Abstract

Theory predicts that mandated employment protections may reduce productivity by distorting production choices. Firms facing (non-Coasean) worker dismissal costs will curtail hiring below efficient levels and retain unproductive workers, both of which should affect productivity. These theoretical predictions have rarely been tested. We use the adoption of wrongful-discharge protections by U.S. state courts over the last three decades to evaluate the link between dismissal costs and productivity. Drawing on establishment-level data from the Annual Survey of Manufacturers and the Longitudinal Business Database, our estimates suggest that wrongful-discharge protections reduce employment flows and firm entry rates. Moreover, analysis of plant-level data provides evidence of capital deepening and a decline in total factor productivity following the introduction of wrongful-discharge protections. This last result is potentially quite important, suggesting that mandated employment protections reduce productive efficiency as theory would suggest. However, our analysis also presents some puzzles including, most significantly, evidence of strong employment growth following adoption of dismissal protections. In light of these puzzles, we read our findings as suggestive but tentative.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor & William R. Kerr & Adriana D. Kugler, 2007. "Do Employment Protections Reduce Productivity? Evidence from U.S. States," NBER Working Papers 12860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12860
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • J83 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Workers' Rights
    • J88 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Public Policy
    • K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law

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