Incomplete Information, Risk Shifting, and Employment Fluctuations

Herschel I. Grossman

NBER Working Paper No. 534 (Also Reprint No. r0186)
Issued in August 1980
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth

This paper explores one of the ways in which acceptance of the hypothesis that labor market transactions involve arrangements for shifting risk from workers to employers strengthens the case for accepting the hypothesis that incomplete information is the critical factor in producing the positive effect of aggregate demand for output on aggregate employment. The analysis shows that the introduction of risk-shifting arrangements into models of incomplete information eliminates the dependence of the relation between aggregate demand and aggregate employment on the relative strengths of the usual substitution and income effects on labor supply of perceived real wage rates or perceived real interest rates. In addition, the analysis shows that the apparent fact that workers choose an amount of risk shifting that gives them constant nominal wage rates implies that incomplete information would produce a positive effect of aggregate demand on aggregate employment. The key to these results is that risk shifting allows workers to use the value of product associated with high levels of demand to supplement the income associated with low levels of demand. Consequently, they can choose high employment instates of high demand without causing a corresponding reduction in their expected marginal utility of consumption.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w0534

Published: Grossman, Herschel I. "Incomplete Information, Risk Shifting, and Employment Fluctuations." Review of Economic Studies, Vol. XLVIII, No. 152 (April 1981), pp. 189-197. citation courtesy of

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