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Layoffs and Lemons

  • Robert Gibbons
  • Lawrence Katz

In this paper we provide theoretical and empirical analyses of an asymmetric-information model of layoffs in which the current employer is better informed about its workers' abilities than prospective employers are. The key feature of the model is that when firms have discretion with respect to whom to lay off, the market infers that laid-off workers are of low ability. Since no such negative inference should be attached o workers displaced in a plant closing, our model predicts that the postdisplacement wages of otherwise observationally equivalent workers will be higher for those displaced by plant closings than for those displaced by layoffs. An extension of our model predicts that the average postdisplacement unemployment spell of otherwise observationally equivalent workers will be shorter for those displaced by plant closings than for those displaced by layoffs. In our empirical work, we use data from the Displaced Workers Supplements in the January 1984 and 1986 Current Population Surveys. We find that the evidence (with respect to both re-employment wages and postdisplacement unemployment duration) is consistent with the idea that laid off workers are viewed less favorably by the market than are those losing jobs in plant closings. Our findings are much stronger for workers laid off from jobs where employers have discretion over whom to lay off.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2968.

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Date of creation: May 1989
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Publication status: published as Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 351-380, (October 1991).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2968
Note: LS
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  1. Milgrom, Paul & Oster, Sharon, 1987. "Job Discrimination, Market Forces, and the Invisibility Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(3), pages 453-76, August.
  2. Gibbons, R. & Katz, L.F., 1989. "Layoffs And Lemons," Working papers 531, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Katz, Lawrence F & Meyer, Bruce D, 1990. "Unemployment Insurance, Recall Expectations, and Unemployment Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(4), pages 973-1002, November.
  4. Caplin, A. & Nalebuff, B., 1989. "Aggregation And Social Choice: A Mean Voter Theorem," Discussion Papers 1989_31, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  5. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  6. Kletzer, L., 1988. "Returns To Seniority After Permanent Job Loss," Department of Economics Working Papers 129, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  7. Michael Waldman, 1983. "Job Assignments, Signalling nad Efficiency," UCLA Economics Working Papers 286, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Edward P. Lazear, 1984. "Raids and Offermatching," NBER Working Papers 1419, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Douglas L. Kruse, 1988. "International trade and the labor market experience of displaced workers," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(3), pages 402-417, April.
  10. MacDonald, Glenn M, 1982. "A Market Equilibrium Theory of Job Assignment and Sequential Accumulation of Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1038-55, December.
  11. Lawrence F. Katz, 1986. "Layoffs, Recall and the Duration of Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 1825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Michael H. Riordan & Robert W. Staiger, 1988. "Sectoral Shocks and Structural Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 2522, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Greenwald, Bruce C, 1986. "Adverse Selection in the Labour Market," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(3), pages 325-47, July.
  14. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
  15. Katharine G. Abraham & James L. Medoff, 1984. "Length of service and layoffs in union and nonunion work groups," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 38(1), pages 87-97, October.
  16. Fudenberg, Drew & Tirole, Jean, 1991. "Perfect Bayesian equilibrium and sequential equilibrium," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 236-260, April.
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