IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/oup/qjecon/v122y2007i2p729-773..html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Incentives for Managers and Inequality among Workers: Evidence from a Firm-Level Experiment

Author

Listed:
  • Oriana Bandiera
  • Iwan Barankay
  • Imran Rasul

Abstract

We present evidence from a firm level experiment in which we engineered an exogenous change in managerial compensation from fixed wages to performance pay based on the average productivity of lower-tier workers. Theory suggests that managerial incentives affect both the mean and dispersion of workers' productivity through two channels. First, managers respond to incentives by targeting their efforts towards more able workers, implying that both the mean and the dispersion increase. Second, managers select out the least able workers, implying that the mean increases but the dispersion may decrease. In our field experiment we find that the introduction of managerial performance pay raises both the mean and dispersion of worker productivity. Analysis of individual level productivity data shows that managers target their effort towards high ability workers, and the least able workers are less likely to be selected into employment. These results highlight the interplay between the provision of managerial incentives and earnings inequality among lower-tier workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2007. "Incentives for Managers and Inequality among Workers: Evidence from a Firm-Level Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 729-773.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:2:p:729-773.
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/qjec.122.2.729
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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 841-864, October.
    2. Yingyi Qian, 1994. "Incentives and Loss of Control in an Optimal Hierarchy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(3), pages 527-544.
    3. 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.
    4. Encinosa III, William E. & Gaynor, Martin & Rebitzer, James B., 2007. "The sociology of groups and the economics of incentives: Theory and evidence on compensation systems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 187-214, February.
    5. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
    6. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    7. Oyer, Paul & Schaefer, Scott, 2005. "Why do some firms give stock options to all employees?: An empirical examination of alternative theories," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 99-133, April.
    8. Calvo, Guillermo A & Wellisz, Stanislaw, 1979. "Hierarchy, Ability, and Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 991-1010, October.
    9. Xianming Zhou & Peter L. Swan, 2003. "Performance Thresholds in Managerial Incentive Contracts," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76(4), pages 665-696, October.
    10. Doran, H. E. & Griffiths, W. E., 1983. "On the relative efficiency of estimators which include the initial observations in the estimation of seemingly unrelated regressions with first-order autoregressive disturbances," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 165-191, October.
    11. Chevalier, Judith & Ellison, Glenn, 1997. "Risk Taking by Mutual Funds as a Response to Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1167-1200, December.
    12. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
    13. Simon Burgess & Carol Propper & Helen Slater & Deborah Wilson, 2005. "Who wins and who loses from school accountability? The distribution of educational gain in English secondary schools," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 05/128, The Centre for Market and Public Organisation, University of Bristol, UK.
    14. List, John A. & Rasul, Imran, 2011. "Field Experiments in Labor Economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 2, pages 103-228, Elsevier.
    15. Oliver E. Williamson, 1967. "Hierarchical Control and Optimum Firm Size," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 123-123.
    16. 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.
    17. Brian J. Hall & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1998. "Are CEOs Really Paid Like Bureaucrats?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 653-691.
    18. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-580, June.
    19. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
    20. Harry J. Paarsch & Bruce S. Shearer, 1999. "The Response of Worker Effort to Piece Rates: Evidence from the British Columbia Tree-Planting Industry," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(4), pages 643-667.
    21. Sherwin Rosen, 1982. "Authority, Control, and the Distribution of Earnings," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 311-323, Autumn.
    22. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Brian A. Jacob, 2002. "Accountability, Incentives and Behavior: The Impact of High-Stakes Testing in the Chicago Public Schools," NBER Working Papers 8968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    24. Henry S. Farber, 2005. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 46-82, February.
    25. George Akerlof, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. repec:eee:labchp:v:3:y:1999:i:pb:p:2373-2437 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Pierre-André Chiappori & Bernard Salanié, 2002. "Testing Contract Theory : A Survey of Some Recent Work," Working Papers 2002-11, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    3. Bernd Irlenbusch, 2006. "Experimental perspectives on incentives in organisations," Central European Journal of Operations Research, Springer;Slovak Society for Operations Research;Hungarian Operational Research Society;Czech Society for Operations Research;Österr. Gesellschaft für Operations Research (ÖGOR);Slovenian Society Informatika - Section for Operational Research;Croatian Operational Research Society, vol. 14(1), pages 1-24, February.
    4. Ambra, Poggi & Piergiovanna, Natale, 2017. "Learning by hiring, network centrality and within-firm wage dispersion," Working Papers 369, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised 19 Aug 2017.
    5. Oyer, Paul & Schaefer, Scott, 2011. "Personnel Economics: Hiring and Incentives," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 20, pages 1769-1823, Elsevier.
    6. Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "Personnel Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121883, February.
    7. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 3, pages 229-330, Elsevier.
    8. Nikiforakis, Nikos & Oechssler, Jörg & Shah, Anwar, 2019. "Managerial bonuses and subordinate mistreatment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 509-525.
    9. Ku, Hyejin, 2019. "The effect of wage subsidies on piece rate workers: Evidence from the Penny Per Pound program in Florida," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 122-134.
    10. Oriana Bandiera (STICERD & LSE, 2004. "Relative and Absolute Incentives: Evidence on Worker Productivity," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 277, Econometric Society.
    11. Jin, Xin, 2014. "Flattening Firms and Wage Distribution," MPRA Paper 58485, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Jeffrey A. Flory & Andreas Leibbrandt & John A. List, 2010. "Do Competitive Work Places Deter Female Workers? A Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment on Gender Differences in Job-Entry Decisions," NBER Working Papers 16546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Edward P. Lazear & Paul Oyer, 2012. "Personnel Economics," Introductory Chapters, in: Robert Gibbons & John Roberts (ed.),The Handbook of Organizational Economics, Princeton University Press.
    14. Committee, Nobel Prize, 2016. "Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström: Contract Theory," Nobel Prize in Economics documents 2016-1, Nobel Prize Committee.
    15. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2005. "Social Preferences and the Response to Incentives: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 917-962.
    16. Eduard Marinov, 2016. "The 2016 Nobel Prize in Economics," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 6, pages 97-149.
    17. Xin Jin, 2014. "Flattening Firms and Wage Distribution," Working Papers 0414, University of South Florida, Department of Economics.
    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. Emmanuel Dechenaux & Dan Kovenock & Roman Sheremeta, 2015. "A survey of experimental research on contests, all-pay auctions and tournaments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(4), pages 609-669, December.
    20. Derek C. Jones & Takao Kato, 2011. "The Impact of Teams on Output, Quality, and Downtime: An Empirical Analysis Using Individual Panel Data," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 64(2), pages 215-240, January.
    21. Pedro Ortín‐Ángel & Vicente Salas‐fumás, 1998. "Agency‐Theory and Internal‐Labor‐Market Explanations of Bonus Payments: Empirical Evidence from Spanish Firms," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(4), pages 573-613, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:2:p:729-773.. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Oxford University Press The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Oxford University Press to update the entry or send us the correct address or Christopher F. Baum (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.