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Constraints on the Choice of Work Hours: Agency vs. Specific-Capital

  • Shulamit Kahn
  • Kevin Lang

Most models of implicit lifetime contracts imply that at any particular point in time, workers' wages and value of marginal product (VMP) will diverge. As a result, the contract will have to specify hours as well as wages, since firms will desire to prevent workers from working more when the wage is greater than VMP and from working less when the wage is less than VMP. this divergence, combined with the fact that in efficient contracts, the hours are set so that VMP equals the marginal value of leisure, implies that workers will face binding hours constraints. We show that the two major models of lifetime contracts, the agency model and the firm-specific capital model, make opposite predictions regarding the relation between work hours constraints and job tenure. We test these predictions. Our results indicate that neither model of efficient long-term contracts explains the observed pattern of hours constraints. Therefore, we briefly consider other explanations.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2238.

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Date of creation: May 1987
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Publication status: Published as "Constraints on the Choice of Work Hours: Agency Versus Specific-Capital", JHR, Vol. 27, no. 4 (1992): 661-678.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2238
Note: LS
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  1. Dickens, William T & Lundberg, Shelly J, 1993. "Hours Restrictions and Labor Supply," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(1), pages 169-92, February.
  2. Hall, Robert E, 1982. "The Importance of Lifetime Jobs in the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 716-24, September.
  3. Kuhn, Peter, 1986. "Wages, Effort, and Incentive Compatibility in Life-Cycle Employment Contracts," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(1), pages 28-49, January.
  4. Lazear, Edward P, 1981. "Agency, Earnings Profiles, Productivity, and Hours Restrictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 606-20, September.
  5. Kahn, Shulamit, 1987. "Occupational Safety and Workers Preferences: Is There a Marginal Worker?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(2), pages 262-68, May.
  6. Moffitt, Robert, 1984. "The Estimation of a Joint Wage-Hours Labor Supply Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(4), pages 550-66, October.
  7. Baily, Martin Neil, 1974. "Wages and Employment under Uncertain Demand," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 37-50, January.
  8. Poirier, Dale J. & Ruud, Paul A., 1981. "On the appropriateness of endogenous switching," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 249-256, June.
  9. Polinsky, Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1979. "The Optimal Tradeoff between the Probability and Magnitude of Fines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(5), pages 880-91, December.
  10. William T. Dickens & Kevin Lang, 1984. "A Test of Dual Labor Market Theory," NBER Working Papers 1314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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 1120-43, Nov.-Dec..
  12. Lang, Kevin, 1989. "Why was there mandatory retirement?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 127-136, June.
  13. Azariadis, Costas, 1975. "Implicit Contracts and Underemployment Equilibria," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1183-1202, December.
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