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Job Allocation Rules and Sorting Efficiency: Experimental Outcomes in a Peter Principle Environment

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  • David L. Dickinson

    () (Appalachian State University, Department of Economics, Boone, NC 28608, USA;)

  • Marie Claire Villeval

    () (University of Lyon, Lyon, F-69007, France; Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique, 93 chemin des Mouilles, Ecully, F-69130, France (current address); Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn, Germany)

Abstract

An important issue in personnel economics is the design of efficient job allocation rules. Firms often use promotions both to sort workers across jobs and to provide them with incentives. However, the Peter Principle states that employees' output tends to fall after a promotion. Lazear (2004) suggests that self-selection may improve job allocation efficiency while preserving incentive effects. We reproduce this Peter Principle in the laboratory and compare the efficiency of a promotion standard with subjects self-selecting their task. We find no evidence of effort distortion, as predicted by theory. Furthermore, we find that when the Peter Principle is not severe, promotion rules often dominate self-selection efficiency of task assignment. Results are consistent with imperfect appraisal of transitory ability and a lack of strategic behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • David L. Dickinson & Marie Claire Villeval, 2012. "Job Allocation Rules and Sorting Efficiency: Experimental Outcomes in a Peter Principle Environment," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 78(3), pages 842-859, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:78:3:y:2012:p:543-556
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.4284/0038-4038-78.3.842
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Dan Bernhardt, 1995. "Strategic Promotion and Compensation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(2), pages 315-339.
    2. Margaret A. Meyer, 1991. "Learning from Coarse Information: Biased Contests and Career Profiles," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 15-41.
    3. James A. Fairburn & James M. Malcomson, 2001. "Performance, Promotion, and the Peter Principle," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 45-66.
    4. Michael Waldman, 1984. "Job Assignments, Signalling, and Efficiency," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(2), pages 255-267, Summer.
    5. Bernhardt, Dan & Scoones, David, 1993. "Promotion, Turnover, and Preemptive Wage Offers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 771-791, September.
    6. Prendergast, Canice & Topel, Robert H, 1996. "Favoritism in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 958-978, October.
    7. Eric Van den Steen, 2004. "Rational Overoptimism (and Other Biases)," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1141-1151, September.
    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.
    9. Dan Lovallo & Colin Camerer, 1999. "Overconfidence and Excess Entry: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 306-318, March.
    10. Edward P. Lazear, 2004. "The Peter Principle: A Theory of Decline," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 141-163, February.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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