Crying Over Spilt Milk: Sunk Costs, Fairness Norms and the Hold-Up Problem
AbstractThis paper explores a possible connection between two behavioral anomalies in economics, the observed responsiveness of individual decision-makers to sunk costs, and the apparent failure of backward induction to predict outcomes in experimental bargaining games. In particular, we show that under some conditions, a "sunk cost sensitive" fairness norm can evolve in such environments. Under this norm, a fair distribution allows all parties to recoup whatever each has invested in their relationship before the net surplus is then divided into equal shares. The establishment of such a norm would have important consequences for the hold-up problem, which we characterize in terms of ultimatum bargaining in the presence of an outside option. We then conclude with a brief discussion of the possible labor market implications of our results.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Middlebury College, Department of Economics in its series Middlebury College Working Paper Series with number 0312.
Length: 21 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2003
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
sunk costs; norms; fairness; trust; hold-up problem; human capital;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
- J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
You can help add them by filling out this form.
reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Vijaya Wunnava).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.