The simplest competitive labor market model asserts that if tenure is a desirable job characteristic for professors, they should be willing to pay for it by accepting lower salaries. Conversely, if an institution unilaterally reduces the probability that its assistant professors receive tenure, it will have to pay higher salaries to attract new faculty. Our paper tests this theory using data on salary offers accepted by new assistant professors at economics departments in the United States during the 1974-75 to 1980-81 period, along with data on the proportion of new Ph.D.s hired by each department between 1970 and 1980 that received tenure in the department or at a comparable or higher quality department within the first eight years of receipt of their Ph.D.s. We find evidence that supports the hypothesis that a tradeoff existed. Equally importantly, departments that offered low tenure probabilities to assistant professors also paid higher salaries to their tenured faculty. We attribute this to low tenure probabilities inducing higher effort from assistant professors and thus leading to higher productivity of faculty ultimately promoted to tenure.

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