Skilled labor and bank loan contracting

Lin Cheng, Rong Li, Zhiming Ma, Lufei Ruan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the credit risk implications of a firm's reliance on skilled labor and provides an empirical analysis of the effect of skilled labor on loan contracting outcomes. Using a sample of listed US firms from 1998 to 2017, we predict and find that banks charge higher interest rates to firms relying on high-skill workers than low-skill workers. This effect is stronger for firms with higher asset-based operating leverage, higher probabilities of employee turnover and severer conflicts of interest between equity holders and debt holders. In addition, consistent with the idea that banks consider the specific costs and benefits associated with skilled labor, we show that a firm's reliance on skilled labor is positively (negatively) associated with the relative usage of capital (performance) covenants. Our results hold when applying different matching methods, fixed-effect models or exogenous shocks from two quasi-natural experiments. Overall, our study demonstrates the impact of skilled labor, an important labor-force heterogeneity, on debt contract design and contributes to the understanding of the interaction between labor and capital, that is, the two primary inputs of a firm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Business Finance and Accounting
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • capital covenants
  • interest spreads
  • loan contracts
  • performance covenants
  • skilled labor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Finance


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