This paper summarizes the results of nearly a dozen new papers presented at the Sundance Conference on Monopsony in Labor Markets held in October 2018. These papers, to be published as a special issue of the Journal of Human Resources, study various aspects of monopsony and failures of competition in labor markets. It also reports on the new developments in public policies associated with widespread concerns about labor market competition and efforts to ameliorate competitive failures. The conference papers range from studies of the labor supply elasticity individual firms face to studies of local labor market concentration to studies of explicit covenants suppressing labor market competition. New policies range from private and public antitrust litigation to concerns about the effect of mergers and inter-firm agreements on labor market competition. We provide a detailed discussion of the mechanics of the Silicon Valley High Tech Worker conspiracy to suppress competition based on Court documents in the case. Non-compete agreements, which are not enforceable in three states already, have also come under scrutiny.
Based on hourly wage rates from nearly all McDonald’s restaurants, and prices of the Big Mac sandwich, we find an elasticity of the wage with respect to the minimum wage of 0.7. This elasticity does not differ between affected and unaffected restaurants because many restaurants maintain a constant wage ‘premium’ above the minimum wage. Higher minimum wages are not associated with faster adoption of touch-screen ordering, and there is near-full price pass-through of minimum wages. Minimum wages lead to higher real wages (expressed in Big Macs per hour) that are one fifth lower than the corresponding increases in nominal wages.
This paper is a non-technical survey of the results of recent quan-
titative analyses of interest arbitration systems operating in the U.S.
It contains a review of the broader context in which arbitration has
become a feature of public sector wage determination, and surveys of
quantitative studies of arbitrator selection and decision—making in
simulation experiments and in practice. For reasons that still remain
unclear, simple statistical analyses continue to confirm a very stable
set of operating characteristics for these systems. The data suggest
that the variability in the outcomes that exists across arbitration
systems is a product either of constraints placed on arbitrator
decisions by the institutional setup or of differences in the behavior
of the parties in response to different institutional setups, and not of
differences in arbitrator behavior.
Econometrics played a major role in the investigation and litigation of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) successful challenge to the proposed merger between two office superstore chains, Staples and Office Depot. Our goal in writing this essay is to describe the econometric issues at stake in evaluating the FTC’s central claim that the price charged by office supply superstores was related to the number and identity of superstore firms participating in the market. Similar statistical models were relied upon by the FTC and the merging firms to analyze pricing. Our discussion of these models highlights the advantages and disadvantages of alternative approaches to analyzing a panel data set: cross-sectional estimates versus fixed effects estimates. We also describe and evaluate modeling choices that appeared to have substantial influence on the empirical results.
A real wage rate is a nominal wage rate divided by the price of a good and is a transparent measure of how much of the good an hour of work buys. It provides an important indicator of the living standards of workers, and also of the productivity of workers. In this paper I set out the conceptual basis for such measures, provide some historical examples, and then provide my own preliminary analysis of a decade long project designed to measure the wages of workers doing the same job in over 60 countries—workers at McDonald’s restaurants. The results demonstrate that the wage rates of workers using the same skills and doing the same jobs differ by as much as 10 to 1, and that these gaps declined over the period 2000-2007, but with much less progress since the Great Recession.