A Theory of Wage Setting Behavior
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Concerns for fairness, workers' morale and reciprocity infuence firms' wage setting policy. In this paper we formalize a theory of wage setting behavior in a simple and tractable model that explicitly considers these behavioral aspects. A worker is assumed to have reference-dependent preferences and displays loss aversion when evaluating the fairness of a wage contract. The theory establishes a wage-effort relationship that captures the worker's reference-dependent reciprocity, which in turn in uences the firm's optimal wage policy. The paper makes two key contributions: it identifies loss aversion as an explanation for a worker's asymmetric reciprocity; and it provides realistic and generalized microfoundation for downward wage rigidity. We further illustrate the implications of our theory for both wage setting and hiring behavior. Downward wage rigidity generates several implications for the outcome of the initial employment contract. The worker's reference wage, his extent of negative reciprocity and the firms expectations are key drivers of the propositions derived.