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Cooperation, Competition, and Risk Attitudes: An Intergenerational Field and Laboratory Experiment

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Author Info

  • Charness, Gary

    ()
    (University of California, Santa Barbara)

  • Villeval, Marie Claire

    ()
    (CNRS, GATE)

Abstract

The population of most developed societies is ‘graying’. As life expectancy increases and the large baby-boom generation approaches retirement age, this has critical consequences for maintaining a high standard of living and the sustainability of pension systems. In the light of these labor-force and social concerns, we consider experimentally the comparative behavior of juniors (under 30) and seniors (over 50) in both experiments conducted onsite with the employees of two large firms and in a conventional laboratory environment with students and retirees. Our results are compelling. First, seniors are not more risk-averse, as opposed to the conventional stereotype. Second, both juniors and seniors react to the competitiveness of the environment and there is no significant difference in performance in the real-effort task across the generations when they are competing. Third, seniors are typically more cooperative than juniors in a team-production game. Cooperation is highest in groups in which there is a mix of juniors and seniors, suggesting that there are indeed benefits in maintaining a work force with diversity in age. Overall, the implication is that it is beneficial to define additional short-term incentives near the end of the workers’ career to motivate and to retain older workers. A secondary, but important, issue is the external validity of conventional laboratory experiments. In general we do not find strong differences in behavior between workers and non-workers, indicating that laboratory experiments may not be such a bad approximation for the field environment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2574.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2574

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Related research

Keywords: performance; diversity; labor market; discrimination; stereotypes; age; experiments;

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Cited by:
  1. Lisa R. Anderson & Beth A. Freeborn & Jason P. Hulbert, 2009. "Risk Aversion and Tacit Collusion in a Bertrand Duopoly Experiment," Working Papers 84, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  2. Uschi Backes-Gellner & Stephan Veen, 2008. "The Impact of Workforce Age Heterogeneity on Company Productivity," Working Papers 0078, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU), revised Sep 2009.
  3. Sproten, Alec N. & Schwieren, Christiane, 2012. "Age differences in the reaction to incentives – do older people avoid competition?," Working Papers 0522, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
  4. Lucy Ackert & Ann Gillette & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Mark Rider, 2011. "Are benevolent dictators altruistic in groups? A within-subject design," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 307-321, September.
  5. Lucy F. Ackert & Ann B. Gillette & Jorge Martinez-Vazquez & Mark Rider, 2009. "Risk Tolerance, Self-Interest, and Social Preferences," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2009-04, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, revised Feb 2011.
  6. Ochsen, Carsten, 2009. "Regional labor markets and aging in Germany," Thuenen-Series of Applied Economic Theory 102, University of Rostock, Institute of Economics.

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