Is There Discretion in Wage Setting? A Test Using Takeover Legislation

Posted: 30 Nov 1998

See all articles by Marianne Bertrand

Marianne Bertrand

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Sendhil Mullainathan

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 1998

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence suggests that uncontrolled managers let wages rise above competitive levels. Testing this popular perception has proven difficult; however, because independent variation in the extent of managerial discretion is needed. In this paper, we use states? passage of anti-takeover legislation as a source of such independent variation. Passed in the 1980s, these laws seriously limited takeovers of firms incorporated in legislating states. Since many view hostile takeovers as an important disciplining device, these laws potentially raised managerial discretion in affected firms. If uncontrolled managers pay higher wages, we expect wages to rise following these laws. Using firm-level data, we find that relative to a control group, annual wages for firms incorporated in states passing laws did indeed rise by 1 to 2% or about $500 per year. The findings are robust to a battery of specification checks and do not appear to be contaminated by the political economy of the laws or other sources of bias. Our results suggest that discretion significantly affects wages. They challenge standard theories of wage determination which ignore the role of managerial preferences.

JEL Classification: J30, M12, G30

Suggested Citation

Bertrand, Marianne and Mullainathan, Sendhil, Is There Discretion in Wage Setting? A Test Using Takeover Legislation (October 1998). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 98-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=74291

Marianne Bertrand (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://gsbwww.uchicago.edu/fac/marianne.bertrand/vita/cv_0604.pdf

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Sendhil Mullainathan

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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617-495-7730 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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