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Did American Welfare Capitalists Breach their Implicit Contracts? Preliminary Findings from Company-level Data, 1920-1940

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  • Chiaki Moriguchi

Abstract

It has been claimed that American employers' experiments in private welfare capitalism collapsed during the Great Depression and were subsequently replaced by the welfare state and industrial unionism. However, recent studies reveal considerable differences among firms, adding complex nuances to a simple story of discontinuation. Characterizing private welfare capitalism as a set of personnel practices that constituted an implicit contract equilibrium, this paper compiles data of fourteen manufacturing firms and tests the implications of implicit contract theory. It finds that the repudiation of implicit contracts was positively correlated with the severity of the depression experienced by a firm and negatively correlated with the effectiveness of internal enforcement mechanisms. It also shows that a firm with more repudiation experienced greater change in labor-management relations under the New Deal regime. A comparative case study complements the findings by providing quantitative evidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiaki Moriguchi, 2003. "Did American Welfare Capitalists Breach their Implicit Contracts? Preliminary Findings from Company-level Data, 1920-1940," NBER Working Papers 9868, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9868
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Takao Kato & Motohiro Morishima, 1995. "The Productivity Effects of Human Resource Management Practices: Evidence from New Japanese Panel Data," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_143, Levy Economics Institute.
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    4. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-548, June.
    5. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
    6. Michael D. Bordo & Claudia Goldin & Eugene N. White, 1998. "The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bord98-1.
    7. Knez, Marc & Simester, Duncan, 2001. "Firm-Wide Incentives and Mutual Monitoring at Continental Airlines," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(4), pages 743-772, October.
    8. Kanemoto, Yoshitsugu & Bentley MacLeod, W., 1989. "Optimal labor contracts with non-contractible human capital," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 385-402, December.
    9. Greif, Avner & Milgrom, Paul & Weingast, Barry R, 1994. "Coordination, Commitment, and Enforcement: The Case of the Merchant Guild," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 745-776, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre Cahuc, 2005. "Le difficile retour en emploi des seniors," Revue Française d'Économie, Programme National Persée, vol. 20(1), pages 3-56.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N82 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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