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Fairness, incentives, and contractual choices

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  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

Abstract

This paper examines how the presence of a non-negligible fraction of reciprocally fair actors changes the provision of incentives through contracts. We provide experimental evidence that principals have a strong preference for less complete contracts although the standard self-interest model predicts that they should prefer the more complete contract. Our theoretical analysis shows that fairness concerns can explain this preference for less completeness. Fair principals keep their promises which provides strong pecuniary incentives through an incomplete contract. Selfish principals free-ride and exploit the agents. Counter-intuitively, selfish agents are induced to work by an incomplete contract while fair agents shirk.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 44 (2000)
Issue (Month): 4-6 (May)
Pages: 1057-1068

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:44:y:2000:i:4-6:p:1057-1068

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  1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  3. Georg Kirchsteiger & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5899, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1993. "Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Working Paper Series, Research Institute of Industrial Economics 380, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
  6. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 3014, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1994. "Satisfaction and comparison income," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9408, CEPREMAP.
  8. Jacob K. Goeree & Charles A. Holt, . "Asymmetric Inequality Aversion and Noisy Behavior in Alternating-Offer Bargaining Games," Virginia Economics Online Papers 329, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  9. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-54, May.
  10. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
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