Optimal Contracts, Adverse Selection, and Social Preferences: An Experiment
AbstractIt has long been standard in agency theory to search for incentivecompatible mechanisms on the assumption that people care only about their own material wealth. However, this assumption is clearly refuted by numerous experiments, and we feel that it may be useful to consider nonpecuniary utility in mechanism design and contract theory. Accordingly, we devise an experiment to explore optimal contracts in an adverse-selection context. A principal proposes one of three contract menus, each of which offers a choice of two incentive-compatible contracts, to two agents whose types are unknown to the principal. The agents know the set of possible menus, and choose to either accept one of the two contracts offered in the proposed menu or to reject the menu altogether; a rejection by either agent leads to lower (and equal) reservation payoffs for all parties. While all three possible menus favor the principal, they do so to varying degrees. We observe numerous rejections of the more lopsided menus, and approach an equilibrium where one of the more equitable contract menus (which one depends on the reservation payoffs) is proposed and agents accept a contract, selecting actions according to their types. Behavior is largely consistent with all recent models of social preferences, strongly suggesting there is value in considering nonpecuniary utility in agency theory.
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- Antonio Cabrales & Gary Charness, 2000. "Optimal contracts, adverse selection and social preferences: An experiment," Economics Working Papers 478, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
- A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
- B49 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Other
- C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
- C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
- D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
- J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
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