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Sorting, Incentives and Risk Preferences: Evidence from a Field Experiment

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  • Bellemare, Charles

    ()
    (Université Laval)

  • Shearer, Bruce S.

    ()
    (Université Laval)

Abstract

The, often observed, positive correlation between incentive intensity and risk has been explained in two ways: the presence of transaction costs as determinants of contracts and the sorting of risk-tolerant individuals into firms using high-intensity incentive contracts. The empirical importance of sorting is perhaps best evaluated by directly measuring the risk tolerance of workers who have selected into incentive contracts under risky environments. We use experiments, conducted within a real firm, to measure the risk preferences of a sample of workers who are paid incentive contracts and face substantial daily income risk. Our experimental results indicate the presence of sorting; Workers in our sample are risk-tolerant. Moreover, their level of tolerance is considerably higher than levels observed for samples of individuals representing broader populations. Interestingly, the high level of risk tolerance suggests that both sorting and transaction costs are important determinants of contract choices when workers have heterogeneous preferences.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2227.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Economics Letters, 2010, 108 (3), 345-348
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2227

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Keywords: risk aversion; sorting; incentive contracts; field experiments;

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  1. Armin Falk & Andrea Ichino, 2006. "Clean Evidence on Peer Effects," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 39-58, January.
  2. Bruce Shearer, 2004. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages and Incentives: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(2), pages 513-534, 04.
  3. Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Cross-sectional earnings risk and occupational sorting: The role of risk attitudes," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 926-937, December.
  4. Daniel A. Ackerberg & Maristella Botticini, 2002. "Endogenous Matching and the Empirical Determinants of Contract Form," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 564-591, June.
  5. Allen, Douglas & Lueck, Dean, 1992. "Contract Choice in Modern Agriculture: Cash Rent versus Cropshare," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 397-426, October.
  6. Gourieroux Christian & Monfort Alain & Trognon A, 1981. "Pseudo maximum likelihood methods : theory," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 8129, CEPREMAP.
  7. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  8. Bellemare, Charles & Shearer, Bruce, 2009. "Gift giving and worker productivity: Evidence from a firm-level experiment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 233-244, September.
  9. Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Cross-sectional earnings risk and occupational sorting: The role of risk attitudes," Munich Reprints in Economics 20204, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  10. Harry J. Paarsch & Bruce S. Shearer, 1999. "The Response of Worker Effort to Piece Rates: Evidence from the British Columbia Tree-Planting Industry," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(4), pages 643-667.
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