IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Do Deferred Wages Dominate Involuntary Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device?

  • George A. Akerlof
  • Lawrence F. Katz

In the most widely analyzed type of efficiency wage model of involuntary unemployment, firms pay wages in excess of market clearing to give workers an incentive not to shirk. Such payments in excess of market clearing and the resultant equilibrium unemployment act as a worker discipline device. This paper concerns what is usually considered the most important theoretical criticism of such models: the so-called bonding argument. The essence of the bonding critique is that contracts whereby workers pay a bond to the firm upon taking a job (or pay an employment fee to gain employment) can eliminate involuntary unemployment. Explicit upfront bonds are only quite rarely observed. A more subtle form of the bonding critique argues that implicit bonding through upward sloping wage profiles and other deferred payment schemes can perfectly substitute for upfront bonds in providing incentives not to shirk and thereby allow the labor market to clear. This paper shows that upward sloping wage profiles do not act as a perfect substitute for explicit bonds in a natural extension of the shirking model in which workers are finite lived, the monitoring of worker behaviors on the job is costly, and firms have reputations for honesty as employers. In the absence of direct upfront bonding, optimal payment schedules will be in excess of market clearing. The reason why upward sloping wage profiles that are market clearing will not generally be the optimal labor contract is simple: delayed payment may provide sufficient incentive to prevent shirking late in the life of the contract, but in the beginning of the contract it does not prevent shirking. And it turns out in a variety of stylized cases, it is cheaper for the firm to pay a wage premium rather than to accept worker shirking early in the contract. The implications of potential worker malfeasance in the absence of explicit bonds for compensation schedules, job assignments, and firm monitoring strategies over the course of a worker's career are also analyzed.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2025.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2025.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Sep 1986
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Advances in the Theory and Measurement of Unemployment, Weiss, Y. and G. Fishelson, eds., New York: MacMillan, 1990, pp. 172-203.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2025
Note: LS
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Hutchens, Robert, 1986. "Delayed Payment Contracts and a Firm's Propensity to Hire Older Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(4), pages 439-57, October.
  2. Lazear, Edward P, 1981. "Agency, Earnings Profiles, Productivity, and Hours Restrictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 606-20, September.
  3. W. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1986. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Working Papers 585, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  4. Foster, James E & Wan, Henry Y, Jr, 1984. "Involuntary Unemployment as a Principal-Agent Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 476-84, June.
  5. 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.
  6. Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Efficiency Wage Theories: A Partial Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 1906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Alan B. Krueger & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Reflections on the Inter-Industry Wage Structure," NBER Working Papers 1968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. William T. Dickens & Lawrence F. Katz, 1987. "Inter-Industry Wage Differences and Theories of Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 2271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Steven G. Allen & Robert L. Clark & Daniel A. Sumner, 1986. "Postretirement Adjustments of Pension Benefits," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(1), pages 118-137.
  10. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1985. "The Inefficiency of Unemployment: The Supervision Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(2), pages 373-87, May.
  11. 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.
  12. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
  13. Eaton, Curtis & White, William D, 1983. "The Economy of High Wages: An Agency Problem," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(198), pages 175-81, May.
  14. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1984. "Theories of Wage Rigidity," NBER Working Papers 1442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2025. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.