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Is Collective Bargaining Pareto Efficient? A Survey of the Literature

  • Nicholas Lawson

    (Princeton University)

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    It would be hard, even today, to deny that labor unions are important economic institutions, and it is this importance that makes their consequences for efficiency so substantial. Interest in the economic analysis of unions was revived in the early 1980s, in large part by a paper by Ian McDonald and Robert Solow which formalized, algebraically and graphically, ideas which were first expressed in the context of labor markets 35 years earlier by Wassily Leontief. The standard textbook model of the labour union treats the union as a conventional monopoly seller of labor, selecting the wage while the firm chooses the level of employment; McDonald & Solow, however, drew from Leontief's work to suggest an alternative in which the firm and union negotiate to a Pareto efficient contract. Further theoretical work followed, and a still-growing empirical literature began to develop, a significant portion of it dedicated to testing McDonald & Solow's model against the traditional labor demand curve theory. A wide variety of empirical procedures and tests have been attempted, with a diverse and contradictory range of findings; given the importance of the question of the efficiency of union contracts, an up-to-date survey of the literature may be useful in synthesizing past results and pointing the way to future research, and it is this role which the current paper will attempt to fill.

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    Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. in its series Working Papers with number 1268.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:558
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    1. Kuhn, Peter, 1988. "A Nonuniform Pricing Model of Union Wages and Employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(3), pages 473-508, June.
    2. Richard Layard & Stephen Nickell, 1990. "Is Unemployment Lower if Unions Bargain over Employment?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(3), pages 773-787.
    3. Farber, Henry S, 1978. "Individual Preferences and Union Wage Determination: The Case of the United Mine Workers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 923-42, October.
    4. Vannetelbosch, Vincent J., 1993. "Testing Between Alternative Wage-Employment Bargaining Models Using Belgian Aggreggate Data," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 1994012, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES), revised 27 Apr 1994.
    5. Manning, Alan, 1987. "An Integration of Trade Union Models in a Sequential Bargaining Framework," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(385), pages 121-39, March.
    6. Alogoskoufis, George & Manning, Alan, 1991. "Tests of alternative wage employment bargaining models with an application to the UK aggregate labour market," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 23-37, January.
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