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Coercive Contract Enforcement: Law and the Labor Market in 19th Century Industrial Britain

Suresh Naidu and Noam Yuchtman

No 17051, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: British Master and Servant law made employee contract breach a criminal offense until 1875. We develop a contracting model generating equilibrium contract breach and prosecutions, then exploit exogenous changes in output prices to examine the effects of labor demand shocks on prosecutions. Positive shocks in the textile, iron, and coal industries increased prosecutions. Following the abolition of criminal sanctions, wages differentially rose in counties that had experienced more prosecutions, and wages responded more to labor demand shocks. Coercive contract enforcement was applied in industrial Britain; restricted mobility allowed workers to commit to risk-sharing contracts with lower, but less volatile, wages.

JEL-codes: J41 K31 N13 N43 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-lab
Date: 2011-05
Note: DAE LE LS POL
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Published as “Coercive Contract Enforcement : Law and the Labor Market in 19th Century Industrial Britain ” (with Noam Yuchtman) - American Economic Review Vol. 103(1) (February 201 3):107 - 144

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