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Employment duration and resistance to wage reductions: Experimental evidence

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  • Burda, Michael C.
  • Güth, Werner
  • Kirchsteiger, Georg
  • Uhlig, Harald

Abstract

One of the long-standing puzzles in economics is why wages do not fall sufficiently in recessions so as to avoid increases in unemployment. Put differently, if the competitive market wage declines, why don't employers simply force their employees to accept lower wages as well? As an alternative to reviewing statistical data, we have performed an experiment with a lower competitive wage in the second phase of an employment relationship that is known to both parties. The experiment casts two subjects in the highly stylized roles of employer and employee. Our hypothesis is that employers will not lower wages correspondingly and that employees will resist such wage cuts. We find at most mild evidence for resistance to wage declines. Instead, the experimental results can be more fruitfully interpreted in terms of an 'ultimatum game', in which surplus between employers and employees is shared. In this view, wages and their lack of decline are simply the mechanical tool for accomplishing this split.

Suggested Citation

  • Burda, Michael C. & Güth, Werner & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Uhlig, Harald, 1998. "Employment duration and resistance to wage reductions: Experimental evidence," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1998,74, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:sfb373:199874
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1982. "Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 97-109, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Truman F. Bewley, 2002. "Fairness, Reciprocity, and Wage Rigidity," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1383, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    2. Christian Calmès, 2005. "Self-Enforcing Labour Contracts and the Dynamics Puzzle," Staff Working Papers 05-1, Bank of Canada.
    3. Smith, Jennifer C., 2002. "Pay Cuts And Morale : A Test Of Downward Nominal Rigidity," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 649, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    4. Simon G�chter & Ernst Fehr, "undated". "Fairness in the Labour Market � A Survey of Experimental Results," IEW - Working Papers 114, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    5. Bewley, Truman, 2004. "Fairness, Reciprocity, and Wage Rigidity," IZA Discussion Papers 1137, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    ultimatum game; wage flexibility; wage ratchet effect; wage bargaining; labour market; fair wages;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J52 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Dispute Resolution: Strikes, Arbitration, and Mediation

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