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The Hidden Advantage of Delegation: Pareto Improvements in a Gift Exchange Game

  • Gary Charness
  • Ramon Cobo-Reyes
  • Natalia Jimenez
  • Juan A. Lacomba
  • Francisco Lagos

This paper analyzes the effect on performance and earnings of delegating the wage choice to employees. Our results show that such delegation significantly increases effort levels. Moreover, we observe a Pareto improvement, as the earnings of both employers and employees increase when employers delegate than when they do not. Interestingly, we also find that the employees' performance under delegation is higher than under nondelegation, even for similar wages. While there is strong evidence that behavior reflects strategic considerations, this result also holds for one-shot interactions. A possible nonstrategic motivation explaining the positive reaction to delegation is a sense of enhanced responsibility. (JEL J31, J33, J41)

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

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 5 (August)
Pages: 2358-79

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:5:p:2358-79
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  1. Björn Bartling & Urs Fischbacher, 2008. "Shifting the Blame: On Delegation and Responsibility," IEW - Working Papers 380, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Charness, Gary B, 1999. "Responsibility And Effort In An Experimental Labor Market," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt7x98w91h, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  3. Aldo Rustichini & Uri Gneezy, 2000. "A fine is a price," Natural Field Experiments 00258, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, George & Riedl, Arno, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-59, May.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Holger Herz & Tom Wilkening, 2010. "The Lure of Authority: Motivation and Incentive E ects of Power," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1115, The University of Melbourne.
  6. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," General Economics and Teaching 0303002, EconWPA.
  7. 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.
  8. Fershtman, C & Gneezy, U, 1996. "Strategic Delegation : An Experiment," Papers 43-96, Tel Aviv.
  9. Lucas C. Coffman, 2011. "Intermediation Reduces Punishment (and Reward)," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 77-106, November.
  10. Sliwka, Dirk, 1999. "On the Costs and Benefits of Delegation in Organizations," Discussion Paper Serie A 600, University of Bonn, Germany.
  11. Gary Charness & David I. Levine, 2007. "Intention and Stochastic Outcomes: An Experimental study," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(522), pages 1051-1072, 07.
  12. Charness, Gary B, 2004. "Attribution And Reciprocity In An Experimental Labor Market," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt8rp6b18c, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  13. Simon Gaechter & Armin Falk, . "Reputation and Reciprocity: Consequences for the Labour Relation," IEW - Working Papers 019, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  14. Ziss, Steffen, 2001. "Horizontal mergers and delegation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(3-4), pages 471-492, March.
  15. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  16. Charness, Gary & Jackson, Matthew O., 2009. "The role of responsibility in strategic risk-taking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 241-247, March.
  17. Gary Charness & Ramón Cobo-Reyes & Natalia Jiménez & Juan Antonio Lacomba & Francisco Lagos, 2010. "The power of delegation: Allowing workers to choose their wage," ThE Papers 09/07, Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada..
  18. John R. Hamman & George Loewenstein & Roberto A. Weber, 2010. "Self-Interest through Delegation: An Additional Rationale for the Principal-Agent Relationship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1826-46, September.
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