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Fairness and Incentives in a Multi-task Principal-Agent Model


  • Ernst Fehr
  • Klaus M. Schmidt


This paper reports on a two-task principal-agent experiment in which only one task is contractible. The principal can either offer a piece-rate contract or a (voluntary) bonus to the agent. Bonus contracts strongly outperform piece-rate contracts. Many principals reward high effort on both tasks with substantial bonuses. Agents anticipate this and provide high effort on both tasks. In contrast, almost all agents with a piece-rate contract focus on the first task and disregard the second. Principals understand this and predominantly offer bonus contracts. This behavior contradicts the self-interest theory but is consistent with theories of fairness. Copyright The editors of the "Scandinavian Journal of Economics", 2004 .

Suggested Citation

  • Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2004. "Fairness and Incentives in a Multi-task Principal-Agent Model," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 453-474, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:scandj:v:106:y:2004:i:3:p:453-474

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General


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