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Competition and the Ratchet Effect

Author

Listed:
  • Gary Charness
  • Peter Kuhn
  • Marie Claire Villeval

Abstract

In labor markets, the ratchet effect refers to a situation where workers subject to performance pay choose to restrict their output, because they rationally anticipate that firms will respond to higher output levels by raising output requirements or by cutting pay. We model this effect as a multiperiod principal-agent problem with hidden information and study its robustness to labor market competition both theoretically and experimentally. Consistent with our theoretical model, we observe substantial ratchet effects in the absence of competition, which are nearly eliminated when competition is introduced; this is true regardless of whether market conditions favor firms or workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary Charness & Peter Kuhn & Marie Claire Villeval, 2011. "Competition and the Ratchet Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(3), pages 513-547.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/659347
    DOI: 10.1086/659347
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation

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