NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Constraints on the Choice of Work Hours: Agency vs. Specific-Capital

Shulamit Kahn, Kevin Lang

NBER Working Paper No. 2238
Issued in May 1987
NBER Program(s):   LS

Most models of implicit lifetime contracts imply that at any particular point in time, workers' wages and value of marginal product (VMP) will diverge. As a result, the contract will have to specify hours as well as wages, since firms will desire to prevent workers from working more when the wage is greater than VMP and from working less when the wage is less than VMP. this divergence, combined with the fact that in efficient contracts, the hours are set so that VMP equals the marginal value of leisure, implies that workers will face binding hours constraints. We show that the two major models of lifetime contracts, the agency model and the firm-specific capital model, make opposite predictions regarding the relation between work hours constraints and job tenure. We test these predictions. Our results indicate that neither model of efficient long-term contracts explains the observed pattern of hours constraints. Therefore, we briefly consider other explanations.

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Published: Published as "Constraints on the Choice of Work Hours: Agency Versus Specific-Capital", JHR, Vol. 27, no. 4 (1992): 661-678.

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