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Identity and the Economics of Organizations

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  • George A. Akerlof
  • Rachel E. Kranton

Abstract

The economics of organizations is replete with the pitfalls of monetary rewards and punishments to motivate workers. If economic incentives do not work, what does? This paper proposes that workers' self-image as jobholders, coupled with their ideal as to how their job should be done, can be a major work incentive. It shows how such identities can flatten reward schedules, as they solve "principal-agent" problem. The paper also identifies and explores a new tradeoff: supervisors may provide information to principals, but create rifts within the workforce and reduce employees' intrinsic work incentives. We motivate the theory with examples from the classic sociology of military and civilian organizations.

Suggested Citation

  • George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2005. "Identity and the Economics of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 9-32, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:19:y:2005:i:1:p:9-32
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/0895330053147930
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    2. Asch, Beth J & Warner, John T, 2001. "A Theory of Compensation and Personnel Policy in Hierarchical Organizations with Application to the United States Military," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(3), pages 523-562, July.
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    5. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    6. Bruno S. Frey & Reto Jegen, 2001. "Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
    7. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
    8. Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 1999. "Careers in organizations: Theory and evidence," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2373-2437, Elsevier.
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