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Piece Rates, Fixed Wages, and Incentive Effects: Statistical Evidence from Payroll Records

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  • Paarsch, Harry J
  • Shearer, Bruce

Abstract

We develop and estimate an agency model of worker behavior under piece rates and fixed wages. The model implies optimal decision rules for the firm's choice of a compensation system as a function of working conditions. Our model also implies an upper and lower bound to the incentive effect (the productivity gain realized by paying workers piece rates rather than fixed wages) that can be estimated using regression methods. Using daily productivity data collected from the payroll records of a British Columbia tree-planting firm, we estimate these bounds to be an 8.8 and a 60.4 percent increase in productivity. Structural estimation, which accounts for the firm's optimal choice of a compensation system, suggests that incentives caused a 22.6 percent increase in productivity. However, only part of this increase represents valuable output because workers respond to incentives, in part, by reducing quality. Copyright 2000 by Economics Department of the University of Pennsylvania and the Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Paarsch, Harry J & Shearer, Bruce, 2000. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages, and Incentive Effects: Statistical Evidence from Payroll Records," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(1), pages 59-92, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:ier:iecrev:v:41:y:2000:i:1:p:59-92
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Christopher Ferrall & Bruce Shearer, 1994. "Incentives, Team Production, Transaction Costs, And The Optimal Contract: Estimates Of An Agency Model Using Payroll Records," Working Paper 908, Economics Department, Queen's University.
    2. Lazear, Edward P, 1986. "Salaries and Piece Rates," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(3), pages 405-431, July.
    3. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
    4. Jones, Derek C & Kato, Takao, 1995. "The Productivity Effects of Employee Stock-Ownership Plans and Bonuses: Evidence from Japanese Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 391-414, June.
    5. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1983. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(1), pages 7-45, January.
    6. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-328, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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