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Are Efficiency Wages Efficient?

  • William T. Dickens
  • Lawrence F. Katz
  • Kevin Lang

Efficiency wage models have been criticized because worker malfeasance can be prevented in a pareto efficient manner by requiring workers to post a bond which they lose if they are caught cheating. However, since it is costly to monitor workers and costless to demand a larger bond, firms should pay nothing for monitoring and demand very large bonds. Since we observe that firms devote considerable resources to monitoring workers, bonds must be limited. Therefore firms must use second best alternatives -- intensive monitoring and/or efficiency wages. The payment of efficiency wages cannot be ruled out on a priori theoretical grounds.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w1935.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1935.

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Date of creation: Jun 1986
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Labor Economic, Vol 7, July 1989
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1935
Note: LS
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  1. Lazear, Edward P, 1981. "Agency, Earnings Profiles, Productivity, and Hours Restrictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 606-20, September.
  2. Calvo, Guillermo, 1979. "Quasi-Walrasian Theories of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 102-07, May.
  3. Weiss, Andrew W, 1980. "Job Queues and Layoffs in Labor Markets with Flexible Wages," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(3), pages 526-38, June.
  4. Bowles, Samuel, 1985. "The Production Process in a Competitive Economy: Walrasian, Neo-Hobbesian, and Marxian Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 16-36, March.
  5. 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.
  6. Solow, Robert M., 1979. "Another possible source of wage stickiness," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 79-82.
  7. Carmichael, Lorne, 1985. "Can Unemployment Be Involuntary? Comment [Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device]," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1213-14, December.
  8. 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.
  9. Eaton, B Curtis & White, William D, 1982. "Agent Compensation and the Limits of Bonding," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(3), pages 330-43, July.
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