A Theory of Wage and Promotion Dynamics in Internal Labor Markets

Robert Gibbons, Michael Waldman

NBER Working Paper No. 6454
Issued in March 1998
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

We attempt to explain employment practices in internal labor markets using models that combine job assignment, on-the-job human-capital acquisition, and learning. We show that a framework that integrates these familiar ideas captures a number of recent empirical findings concerning wage and promotion dynamics in internal labor markets, including the following. First, real wage decreases are a minority of the observations, but are not rare, while demotions are very rare. Second, there is significant serial correlation in wage increases. Third, promotions are associated with particularly large wage increases, but these wage increases are small relative to the difference between average wages across levels of a job ladder. Fourth, on average, workers who receive large wage increases early in their stay at one level of a job ladder are promoted more quickly to the next level. Fifth, individuals promoted from one level of a job ladder to the next come disproportionately, but not exclusively, from the top of the lower job's wage distribution (and arrive disproportionately, but not exclusively, at the bottom of the higher job's wage distribution).

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6454

Published: Gibbons, Robert and Michael Waldman. "A Theory Of Wages And Promotion Dynamics Inside Firms," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1999, v114(4,Nov), 1321-1358.

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