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Performance Pay and Multidimensional Sorting: Productivity, Preferences, and Gender

  • Thomas Dohmen
  • Armin Falk

This paper studies the impact of incentives on worker self-selection in a controlled laboratory experiment. Subjects face the choice between a fixed and a variable payment scheme. Depending on the treatment, the variable payment is a piece rate, a tournament, or a revenue-sharing scheme. We find that output is higher in the variable-payment schemes compared to the fixed-payment scheme. This difference is largely driven by productivity sorting. In addition, different incentive schemes systematically attract individuals with different attitudes, such as willingness to take risks and relative self-assessment as well as gender, which underlines the importance of multidimensional sorting. (JEL C91, D81, D82, J16, J31)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 101 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 556-90

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:2:p:556-90
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  1. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1985. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 85-21, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  3. Dohmen, Thomas J & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Schupp, Jürgen & Sunde, Uwe & Wagner, Gert Georg, 2006. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," CEPR Discussion Papers 5517, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  5. W. Bentley MacLeod & James Malcomson, 1997. "Motivation and Markets," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 339., Boston College Department of Economics.
  6. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074.
  7. Kanemoto, Yoshitsugu & MacLeod, W Bentley, 1992. "The Ratchet Effect and the Market for Secondhand Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(1), pages 85-98, January.
  8. Armin Falk & Andrea Ichino, 2004. "Clean Evidence on Peer Effects," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000439, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Oberholzer-Gee Felix & Eichenberger Reiner, 2008. "Fairness in Extended Dictator Game Experiments," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-21, July.
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  11. Charles Brown, 1992. "Wage Levels and Method of Pay," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(3), pages 366-375, Autumn.
  12. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
  13. Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe, 2006. "Cross-sectional Earnings Risk and Occupational Sorting: The Role of Risk Attitudes," IZA Discussion Papers 1930, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  17. Joanne Salop & Steven C. Salop, 1976. "Self-selection and turnover in the labor market," Special Studies Papers 80, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  18. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  19. Robert Gibbons, 1986. "Piece-Rate Incentive Schemes," Working papers 424, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  20. Englmaier, Florian & Wambach, Achim, 2005. "Optimal Incentive Contracts under Inequity Aversion," IZA Discussion Papers 1643, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  25. repec:eme:rlepps:v:18:y:1999:i:1999:p:177-242 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. Falk, Armin & Heckman, James J., 2009. "Lab Experiments Are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," IZA Discussion Papers 4540, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  27. Bernard Salanié, 2003. "Testing Contract Theory," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 49(3), pages 461-477.
  28. Bohnet, Iris & Kübler, Dorothea, 2000. "Compensating the cooperators: Is sorting in the prisoner's dilemma possible?," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 2001,2, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  29. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-64, October.
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