NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Evidence on the Determinants of the Choice between Wage Posting and Wage Bargaining

Robert E. Hall, Alan B. Krueger

NBER Working Paper No. 16033
Issued in May 2010
NBER Program(s):   EFG

Some workers bargain with prospective employers before accepting a job. Others face a posted wage as a take-it-or-leave-it opportunity. Theories of wage formation point to substantial differences in labor-market equilibrium between bargained and posted wages. We surveyed a representative sample of U.S. workers to inquire about the wage determination process at the time they were hired into their current or most recent jobs. A third of the respondents reported bargaining over pay before accepting their current jobs. About a third of workers had precise information about pay when they first met with their employers, a sign of wage posting. About 40 percent of workers could have remained on their earlier jobs at the time they accepted their current jobs, indicating a more favorable bargaining position than is held by unemployed job-seekers. Our analysis of the distribution of wages shows that wage dispersion is higher among workers who bargained for their wages. Wages are higher among bargainers than non-bargainers, after adjusting for the differing compositions of the groups. Our results on wages give substantial support to the job-ladder model--workers who had the option to remain at their earlier jobs when they took their current jobs can earn higher wages than those without that option.

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