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Career concerns with exponential learning


  • Bonatti, Alessandro

    () (Sloan School of Management, MIT)

  • Hörner, Johannes

    () (Department of Economics, Yale University)


This paper examines the interplay between career concerns and market structure. Ability and effort are complements: effort increases the probability that a skilled agent achieves a one-time breakthrough. Wages are based on assessed ability and on expected output. Effort levels at different times are strategic substitutes and, as a result, the unique equilibrium effort and wage paths are single-peaked with seniority. Moreover, for any wage profile, the agent works too little, too late. Commitment to wages by competing firms mitigates these inefficiencies. In that case, the optimal contract features piecewise constant wages and severance pay.

Suggested Citation

  • Bonatti, Alessandro & Hörner, Johannes, 2017. "Career concerns with exponential learning," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(1), January.
  • Handle: RePEc:the:publsh:2115

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rosa Ferrer, 2015. "The Effect of Lawyers' Career Concerns on Litigation," Working Papers 844, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    2. Alessandro Bonatti & Johannes Horner, 2011. "Career Concerns and Market Structure," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1831R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Oct 2013.
    3. Klein, Nicolas & Mylovanov, Tymofiy, 2017. "Will truth out?—An advisor’s quest to appear competent," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 112-121.
    4. Simon Board & Moritz Meyer‐ter‐Vehn, 2013. "Reputation for Quality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(6), pages 2381-2462, November.
    5. Fama, Eugene F, 1980. "Agency Problems and the Theory of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 288-307, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Azoulay, Pierre & Bonatti, Alessandro & Krieger, Joshua L., 2017. "The career effects of scandal: Evidence from scientific retractions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(9), pages 1552-1569.
    2. Keller, Godfrey & Novák, Vladimír & Willems, Tim, 2019. "A note on optimal experimentation under risk aversion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 476-487.
    3. Hakenes, Hendrik & Katolnik, Svetlana, 2017. "On the incentive effects of job rotation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 424-441.
    4. Gao, Hong & Xu, Haibo, 2020. "Learning, belief manipulation and optimal relationship termination," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    5. Thomas, Caroline, 2019. "Experimentation with reputation concerns – Dynamic signalling with changing types," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 366-415.
    6. Gonzalo Cisternas, 2018. "Career Concerns and the Nature of Skills," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 152-189, May.
    7. Heinsalu, Sander, 2017. "Good signals gone bad: Dynamic signalling with switched effort levels," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 132-141.
    8. Klein, Nicolas & Mylovanov, Tymofiy, 2017. "Will truth out?—An advisor’s quest to appear competent," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 112-121.
    9. Brendan Daley & Ruoyu Wang, 2018. "When to Release Feedback in a Dynamic Tournament," Decision Analysis, INFORMS, vol. 15(1), pages 11-26, March.

    More about this item


    Career concerns; experimentation; reputation;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects


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