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On the Economic Architecture of the Workplace: Repercussions of Social Comparisons among Heterogeneous Workers

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  • Oded Stark
  • Walter Hyll

Abstract

We analyze the impact on a firm's profits and optimal wage rates, and on the distribution of workers' earnings, when workers compare their earnings with those of coworkers. We consider a low-productivity worker who receives lower wage earnings than a high-productivity worker. When the low-productivity worker derives (dis)utility not only from his own effort but also from comparing his earnings with those of the high-productivity worker, his response to the sensing of relative deprivation is to increase the optimal level of effort. Consequently, the firm's profits are higher, its wage rates remain unchanged, and the distribution of earnings is compressed.

Suggested Citation

  • Oded Stark & Walter Hyll, 2011. "On the Economic Architecture of the Workplace: Repercussions of Social Comparisons among Heterogeneous Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 349-375.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/659104
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    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. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2010. "Social Incentives in the Workplace," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(2), pages 417-458.
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    6. Barton H. Hamilton & Jack A. Nickerson & Hideo Owan, 2003. "Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 465-497, June.
    7. Paul Osterman, 2006. "The Wage Effects of High Performance Work Organization in Manufacturing," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 59(2), pages 187-204, January.
    8. Levine, David I., 1991. "Cohesiveness, productivity, and wage dispersion," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 237-255, March.
    9. Alexandre Mas & Enrico Moretti, 2009. "Peers at Work," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 112-145, March.
    10. Frank, Robert H, 1984. "Are Workers Paid Their Marginal Products?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 549-571, September.
    11. C. Simon Fan & Oded Stark, 2007. "A Social Proximity Explanation of the Reluctance to Assimilate," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(1), pages 55-63, February.
    12. Stark, Oded & You Qiang Wang, 2002. "A Theory of Self-Segregation as a Response to Relative Deprivation," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 168, Royal Economic Society.
    13. KNIGHT, John & SONG, Lina & GUNATILAKA, Ramani, 2009. "Subjective well-being and its determinants in rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 635-649, December.
    14. Stark, Oded, 1984. "Rural-to-Urban Migration in LDCs: A Relative Deprivation Approach," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(3), pages 475-486, April.
    15. Antonio Cabrales & Antoni Calvó-Armengol & Nicola Pavoni, 2008. "Social Preferences, Skill Segregation, and Wage Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(1), pages 65-98.
    16. Armin Falk & Andrea Ichino, 2006. "Clean Evidence on Peer Effects," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 39-58, January.
    17. Stark, Oded & Taylor, J Edward, 1991. "Migration Incentives, Migration Types: The Role of Relative Deprivation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1163-1178, September.
    18. Schelling, Thomas C, 1969. "Models of Segregation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 488-493, May.
    19. Stark, Oded & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1988. "Labour Migration as a Response to Relative Deprivation," MPRA Paper 21670, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Amihai Glazer, 2008. "Optimal Contracts When a Worker Envies His Boss," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 120-137, May.
    21. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1987. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 1-33, February.
    22. Rosen, Sherwin, 1986. "Prizes and Incentives in Elimination Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 701-715, September.
    23. George A. Akerlof, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-569.
    24. Bossert, Walter & D'Ambrosio, Conchita, 2006. "Reference groups and individual deprivation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 421-426, March.
    25. Stark, Oded & Micevska, Maja & Mycielski, Jerzy, 2009. "Relative poverty as a determinant of migration: Evidence from Poland," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 103(3), pages 119-122, June.
    26. Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1979. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 321-324.
    27. Michael A. Quinn, 2006. "Relative Deprivation, Wage Differentials and Mexican Migration," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(1), pages 135-153, February.
    28. Oded Stark & J. Taylor, 1989. "Relative deprivation and international migration oded stark," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 26(1), pages 1-14, February.
    29. Robert H. Frank, 1984. "Interdependent Preferences and the Competitive Wage Structure," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(4), pages 510-520, Winter.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Dohmen, Thomas, 2014. "Behavioral labor economics: Advances and future directions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 71-85.
    2. Yingchao Zhang & Oliver Fabel & Christian Thomann, 2015. "Pay inequity effects on back-office employees’ job performances: the case of a large insurance firm," 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. 23(2), pages 421-439, June.
    3. Stark, Oded & Jakubek, Marcin & Falniowski, Fryderyk, 2014. "Reconciling the Rawlsian and the utilitarian approaches to the maximization of social welfare," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(3), pages 439-444.
    4. Oded Stark & Marcin Jakubek, 2016. "Can a Concern for Status Reconcile Diverse Social Welfare Programs?," Research on Economic Inequality,in: Inequality after the 20th Century: Papers from the Sixth ECINEQ Meeting, volume 24, pages 235-246 Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    5. Stark, Oded, 2015. "Comparing the Global and Merged with the Local and Separate: On a Downside to the Integration of Regions and Nations," East Asian Economic Review, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, vol. 19(4), pages 325-355, December.
    6. Oded Stark & Franz Rendl & Marcin Jakubek, 2012. "The merger of populations, the incidence of marriages, and aggregate unhappiness," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 331-344, April.
    7. Stark, Oded & Falniowski, Fryderyk & Jakubek, Marcin, 2016. "Consensus income distribution," Discussion Papers 250120, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    8. Stark, Oded, 2013. "Stressful Integration," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1-9.
    9. Ozan Eksi & Neslihan Kaya, 2017. "Life Satisfaction and Keeping Up with Other Countries," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 199-228, February.
    10. repec:bla:econom:v:84:y:2017:i:336:p:647-666 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Stark, Oded & Kobus, Martyna & Jakubek, Marcin, 2012. "A concern about low relative income, and the alignment of utilitarianism with egalitarianism," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 114(3), pages 235-238.
    12. Stark, Oded & Bielawski, Jakub & Falniowski, Fryderyk, 2017. "A class of proximity-sensitive measures of relative deprivation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 105-110.
    13. Sorger, Gerhard & Stark, Oded, 2013. "Income redistribution going awry: The reversal power of the concern for relative deprivation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 1-9.
    14. Oded Stark & Marcin Jakubek & Martyna Kobus, 2015. "A bitter choice turned sweet: How acknowledging individuals’ concern at having a low relative income serves to align utilitarianism and egalitarianism," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 541-557, July.
    15. repec:spr:joevec:v:28:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s00191-017-0535-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. repec:bla:germec:v:18:y:2017:i:3:p:302-326 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Stark, Oded, 2012. "Integration, social distress, and policy formation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 318-321.
    18. Stark, Oded, 2012. "Policy responses to a dark side of the integration of regions," University of Tuebingen Working Papers in Economics and Finance 28, University of Tuebingen, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences.
    19. Stark, Oded, 2012. "Policy responses to a dark side of the integration of regions and nations," Discussion Papers 122036, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    20. repec:bla:revinw:v:63:y:2017:i:4:p:899-911 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Oded Stark, 2017. "Migration when Social Preferences are Ordinal: Steady-state Population Distribution and Social Welfare," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 84(336), pages 647-666, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

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