Who Bears Firm-Level Risk? Implications for Cash Flow Volatility
66 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2013 Last revised: 24 Dec 2020
Date Written: October 31, 2014
Public firms in the United States that provide better insurance against productivity shocks to their workers experience higher cash flow volatility. Differences in intra-firm risk sharing between workers and capital owners accounts for more than 50% of the variation in firm-level cash flow volatility. I develop a theory in which wages can act either as a hedge or as leverage, depending on the history of the productivity shocks the firm has faced. Heterogeneous roles of workers in the firm are derived by analyzing the dynamic equilibrium wage contracts between risk-neutral owners and risk-averse workers who can leave with a fraction of the accumulated human capital. Owners of the firm will optimally bear more risk when the value of the firm's human capital is currently lower than it has been. The model successfully explains the joint distribution of cash flow volatility and the wage-output sensitivity. Also, the model produces predictions for the dynamics of cash flow volatility that are consistent with the time series properties of the firm-level data.
Keywords: Dynamic Contracts, Firm-Level Cash Flow Volatility, Wage-Output Sensitivity, Human Capital Investment
JEL Classification: D92, E24, G32, J41, L25
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