Kellogg School of Management

Management & Strategy Department

MEDS Department

Northwestern Economics Department


JIN LI

Management & Strategy Department
Kellogg School of Management
Leverone Hall, 6th Floor
2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-2001

 
Phone: 847-467-0306
Fax: 847-467-1777
Email: jin-li@kellogg.northwestern.edu

 

Curriculum Vita

 

 

Papers

The paper studies bidder behavior in simultaneous, continuous, ascending price auctions. We design and implement a ‘‘collusion incubator’’ environment based on a type of public, symmetrically ‘‘folded’’ and ‘‘item-aligned’’ preferences. Tacit collusion develops quickly and reliably within the environment. Once tacit collusion developed, it proved remarkably robust to institutional changes that weakened it as an equilibrium of a game-theoretic model. The only successful remedy was a non-public change in the preference of participants that destroyed the symmetrically, ‘‘folded’’ and ‘‘item aligned’’ patterns of preferences, creating head-to-head competition between two agents reminiscent of the concept of a ‘‘maverick.’’

  • Managing Conflicts in Relational Contracts” joint with Niko Matouschek (December 2012) Forthcoming, American Economic Review

    A worker interacts repeatedly with a manager who is privately informed about the opportunity costs of paying him. The worker therefore cannot distinguish non-payments that are efficiency enhancing from those that are rent extracting. The optimal relational contract generates periodic conflicts during which effort and expected profits decline gradually but recover instantaneously. To manage a conflict, the manager uses a mix of informal promises and formal commitments that evolves with the duration of the conflict. Liquidity constraints limit the manager’s ability to manage conflicts but may also induce the worker to respond to a conflict by providing more effort rather than less.

  • Relational Contracts, Efficiency Wages, and Employment Dynamics” joint with Yuk-Fai Fong (November, 2012) Revise and Resubmit, Review of Economic Studies

This paper studies the optimal dynamic provision of incentives in employment relationships with rents for the worker. In a model of relational contracts with limited liability, we show that the optimal relational contract generates definitive and joint implications on how job security, the pay level, and the sensitivity of pay to performance change over time as the employment relationship progresses. Our results also shed light on how turnover and pay dynamics change as job and firm characteristics vary.

This paper shows that the efficiency of relational contracting can be increased by reducing the public information through a novel intertemporal-garbling process of signals. A distinctive and essential feature of our intertemporal-garbling process is that past outputs have enduring effects on future signals. This process reduces the principal’s maximal reneging temptation by linking together the principal’s non-reneging constraints both across states and over time.

This paper investigates firms’ abilities to tacitly collude when these firms each monopolize a proprietary aftermarket. When firms’ aftermarkets are isolated from foremarket competition, they cannot tacitly collude more easily than single-product firms do. However, when their aftermarket power is contested by foremarket competition as equipment owners view new equipment as a substitute for their incumbent firm’s aftermarket product, the monopoly profit is sustainable among a larger number of firms. These results hold regardless of whether consumers are sophisticated enough to anticipate a price war upon observing a deviation. Conditions under which introduction of aftermarket competition hinders firms’ ability to tacitly collude are characterized.

In order to be incentivized to produce high quality products, the firm’s key decision maker must suffer following failure to maintain high quality. When the firm is run by a dominant controlling shareholder, the punishment on him imposes a negative externality on shareholders without control rights, as the firm’s reputation is damaged and its profit drops. We employ a dynamic model of experience-goods firm to show how ownership turnover can mitigate this negative externality. We identify equilibria in which consumers forgive the firm’s bad outcomes as soon as its control rights change hands. Buyers’ differential treatment of the existing and new controlling shareholders following poor outcomes gives rise to an equilibrium trade of ownership of firms with damaged reputations. Voluntary turnover of control rights enhances firm profit and shareholder value even though it does not make punishment on the existing controlling shareholder harsher and the new controlling shareholder is not better at running the company. Our analysis identifies an endogenous cost of corporate control and provides a novel explanation to the negative control premium puzzle. In a different governance structure with a fully delegated management, the possibility of collusion with managers gives rise to a negative externality of punishment on the firm owner. We solve for the optimal stationary relational contract and show that manager turnover improves the firm’s profit by making collusion difficult to sustain.

This paper develops a model of job mobility and wage dispersion with asymmetric information. Contrary to the existing models in which the superior information of current employers lead to market collapse, this model generates a unique equilibrium outcome in which a) positive turnover exists and b) identical workers can be paid differently. The model implies that, in the presence of technological change that is skill-biased and also favors general skills over firm-specific skills, the wage distribution will become more spread out (corresponding to greater inequality) and job mobility will increase.

We develop a model of turnover and wage dynamics. The main ingredients of the model are insurance, match-specific productivity, and long-term contracting. The model predicts that wages are downward rigid within firms and termination occurs. We apply the model to study the impact of business cycles on subsequent wages and job mobility. Workers hired during a boom have persistent higher future wages if staying with the same firm. However, these boom hires are more likely to be terminated and have shorter employment spells.

This paper develops a model of wage distribution and wage dynamics based on assignment and Pareto learning. The model matches a large number of key facts about wage distribution and wage dynamics. The tractability of Pareto learning allows us to derive joint implications on the wage distribution and wage dynamics as assignment becomes more important. Our model also provides a natural framework for decomposing the earning variance into a permanent component and a transitory one, and it helps explain why the growing importance in assignment can lead to both higher wage inequality and higher wage instability.

This article analyzes the optimal use of peer evaluations in the provision of incentives within a team, and its interplay with relational contracts. We consider an environment in which the firm pays a discretionary bonus based on a publicly observed team output but may further sharpen incentives by using privately reported peer evaluations. We characterize the optimal contract, and show that peer evaluations can help sustain relational contracts. Peer evaluations are used when the firm is less patient and the associated level of surplus destruction is small. Moreover, peer evaluation affects a worker's pay only when the public output is at its lowest level and the co-worker sends the worst report. Noticeably, a worker's report does not affect his own pay, as the provision of effort incentives cannot be decoupled from the incentive for truthful reporting of peer performance. To induce the workers both to put in effort and to report truthfully, the firm may find it optimal to neglect signals that are informative of the worker's effort.

Work in Progress

  • “A Theory of Delegation Dynamics” joint with Niko Matouschek and Mike Powell
  • “A Theory of Player Turnover in Games” joint with Yuk-Fai Fong
  • “Going for it: The Adoption of Risky Strategies in Tournament” joint with Jen Brown

 

Teaching