The Role of Referrals in Immobility, Inequality, and Inefficiency in Labor Markets

58 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2020 Last revised: 21 Mar 2021

See all articles by Lukas Bolte

Lukas Bolte

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Nicole Immorlica

Microsoft Research

Matthew O. Jackson

Stanford University - Department of Economics; Santa Fe Institute

Date Written: January 1, 2020

Abstract

We study the consequences of job markets' heavy reliance on referrals. Referrals screen candidates and lead to better matches and increased productivity, but disadvantage job-seekers who have few or no connections to employed workers, leading to increased inequality. Coupled with homophily, referrals also lead to immobility: a demographic group's low current employment rate leads that group to have relatively low future employment as well. We identify conditions under which distributing referrals more evenly across a population not only reduces inequality, but also improves future productivity and economic mobility. We use the model to examine optimal policies, showing that one-time affirmative action policies involve short-run production losses, but lead to long-term improvements in equality, mobility, and productivity due to induced changes in future referrals. We also examine how the possibility of firing workers changes the effects of referrals.

Keywords: Inequality, Immobility, Job Contacts, Job Referrals, Social Networks, Networks, Productivity, Affirmative Action, Labor Market Rigidity

JEL Classification: D85, D13, L14, O12, Z13

Suggested Citation

Bolte, Lukas and Immorlica, Nicole and Jackson, Matthew O., The Role of Referrals in Immobility, Inequality, and Inefficiency in Labor Markets (January 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3512293 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3512293

Lukas Bolte

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
STANFORD, CA 94305-6072
United States

Nicole Immorlica

Microsoft Research ( email )

One Memorial Drive, 14th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Matthew O. Jackson (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
1-650-723-3544 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~jacksonm

Santa Fe Institute

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Santa Fe, NM 87501
United States

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