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Performance Pay and Productivity

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  • Edward P. Lazear

Abstract

What happens when a firm switches from paying hourly wages to paying piece rates? The theory developed below predicts that average productivity rises, that the firm will attract a more able work force and that the variance in output across individuals at the firm will rise as well. The theory is tested with data from a large autoglass company that changed compensation structures between 1994 and 1995. All theoretical predictions are borne out. In the firm examined, the productivity effects are extremely large, amounting to anywhere from about 20% to 36% of output, depending on what is held constant. About half of the worker-specific increase in productivity is passed on to workers in the form of higher wages.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5672.

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Date of creation: Jul 1996
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Publication status: published as Lazear, E. P. "Performance Pay And Productivity," American Economic Review, 2000, v90(5,Dec), 1346-1361.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5672

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  1. Paarsch, Harry J. & Shearer, Bruce, 1997. "Fixed Wages, Piece Rates, and Intertemporal Productivity: a Study of tree Planters in British Columbia," Cahiers de recherche 9702, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
  2. Seiler, Eric, 1984. "Piece Rate vs. Time Rate: The Effect of Incentives on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(3), pages 363-76, August.
  3. Claudia Goldin, 1985. "Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: An Historical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 1560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kandel, E. & Lazear, E.P., 1990. "Peer Pressure and Partnerships," Papers 90-07, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
  5. Robert Drago & John S. Heywood, 1994. "The Choice of Payment Schemes: Australian Establishment Data," Labor and Demography 9402001, EconWPA, revised 04 Feb 1994.
  6. Beth J. Asch, 1990. "Do incentives matter? The case of Navy recruiters," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(3), pages 89-106, February.
  7. Booth, A-L & Frank, J, 1997. "Performance Related Pay," CEPR Discussion Papers 364, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  8. Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Charles Brown, 1990. "Firms' choice of method of pay," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(3), pages 165-182, February.
  10. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
  11. Fama, Eugene F, 1991. "Time, Salary, and Incentive Payoffs in Labor Contracts," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 25-44, January.
  12. Lazear, Edward P, 1986. "Salaries and Piece Rates," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(3), pages 405-31, July.
  13. Charles Brown, 1992. "Wage Levels and Method of Pay," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(3), pages 366-375, Autumn.
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