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Wage Differentials, Fairness, and Social Comparison: An experimental study of the Co-Employment of Permanent and Temporary Agency Workers†

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Author Info

  • Dorothea Alewell

    ()
    (Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Chair for Business Administration, Human Resource Management and Organization)

  • Andreas Nicklisch

    ()
    (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods)

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    Abstract

    Recent experimental literature in labor economics shows that fairness concerns make a substantial difference for working decisions. Our study systematically explores how the existence of multiple fairness foci influences wage setting and acceptance thresholds. Particularly, we focus on the effect of horizontal fairness concerns, i.e., the wage comparison among employees. For our experiment, we use an institutional design of wage negotiations among employers, employees and temporary agency workers. Working agencies hire these workers and rent them out to firms. Thereby, we create a heterogeneous background of the labour force. Although temporary agency workers do the same work, typically, they receive lower wages due to the intermediate agency. The results of our laboratory experiments indicate that the availability of information concerning co-employee’s wage offers strongly influences the wage set and participants’ acceptance of contracts. Whereas the relation of average wages is not influenced by the order of the decisions, the absolute level of wages is dependent on the decisions. We find that temporary agency workers who decide on a wage offer after permanent employees receive a premium in addition to their wages, while permanent employees take a cut in wages if they get their wage offer after temporary workers have decided on their offers. These results are more influenced by self-regarding social comparison preferences than by other-regarding horizontal fairness concerns.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in its series Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods with number 2006_8.

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    Length: 29 pages
    Date of creation: Mar 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2006_08

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    Related research

    Keywords: Experimental economics; horizontal fairness norms; labour economics; social preferences; vertical fairness norms;

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    References

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    1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    2. Konow, James, 2001. "Fair and square: the four sides of distributive justice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 137-164, October.
    3. Huck, Steffen & Muller, Wieland, 2000. "Perfect versus Imperfect Observability--An Experimental Test of Bagwell's Result," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 174-190, May.
    4. James Konow, 2003. "Which Is the Fairest One of All? A Positive Analysis of Justice Theories," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1188-1239, December.
    5. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
    6. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
    7. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter J., 2004. "Do Co-Workers’ Wages Matter? Theory and Evidence on Wage Secrecy, Wage Compression and Effort," IZA Discussion Papers 1417, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. James Konow, 2001. "A Positive Theory of Economic Fairness," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000138, David K. Levine.
    9. Babcock, Linda & Wang, Xianghong & Lowenstein, George, 1996. "Choosing the Wrong Pond: Social Comparisons in Negotiations That Reflect a Self-Serving Bias," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 1-19, February.
    10. Bagwell, Kyle, 1995. "Commitment and observability in games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 271-280.
    11. Knez Marc J. & Camerer Colin F., 1995. "Outside Options and Social Comparison in Three-Player Ultimatum Game Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 65-94, July.
    12. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
    13. James Konow, 2000. "Fair Shares: Accountability and Cognitive Dissonance in Allocation Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1072-1091, September.
    14. Guth, Werner & Tietz, Reinhard, 1990. "Ultimatum bargaining behavior : A survey and comparison of experimental results," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 417-449, September.
    15. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
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