Endogenous Inequality in Integrated Labor Markets with Two-Sided Search

We consider a market in which there are two types of workers, “red” and “green,” where these labels have no direct payoff implications. Workers can choose to acquire costly skills. Skilled workers must search for firms with a job vacancy, while firms with vacancies also search for unemployed workers. A unique symmetric equilibrium exists in which firms ignore workers’ colors. There may also exist an asymmetric equilibrium in which firms only search for green worker, more green than red workers acquire skills, skilled green workers receive higher wage rates than skilled red workers, and the unemployment rate is higher among skilled red than green workers, though there are more unemployed skilled green workers than red workers. Discrimination between ex ante identical individuals thus arises as an equilibrium phenomenon. Our analysis differs from previous models of discrimination in assuming that firms have perfect information about workers with whom they are matched, and strictly prefer to hire minority workers (contingent on meeting a worker), and in generating predictions concerning unemployment as well as wage rates.


Paper Number: 98-06

Paper Year: 1998


George Mailath
Larry Samuelson