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Worker Cooperation and the Ratchet Effect

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  • Carmichael, H Lorne
  • MacLeod, W Bentley

Abstract

Workers paid by the piece should be happy to introduce new techniques that increase output, but firms always seem to reduce the piece rate when workers start earning too much money. Workers respond by restricting output and keeping good new ideas to themselves. We show that this outcome is inevitable in a competitive environment. However, there are noncompetitive situations where firms can use piece rates to get cooperation from their workers. These predictions are consistent with case history evidence from the cotton spinning industry in England in the nineteenth century and the Lincoln Electric Company in the United States even today. Copyright 2000 by University of Chicago Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Carmichael, H Lorne & MacLeod, W Bentley, 2000. "Worker Cooperation and the Ratchet Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(1), pages 1-19, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:v:18:y:2000:i:1:p:1-19
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gibbons, Robert, 1987. "Piece-Rate Incentive Schemes," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages 413-429, October.
    2. Huberman, Michael, 1986. "Invisible Handshakes in Lancashire: Cotton Spinning in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(04), pages 987-998, December.
    3. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1995. "Complementarities and fit strategy, structure, and organizational change in manufacturing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 179-208, April.
    4. Lazonick, William, 1979. "Industrial Relations and Technical Change: The Case of the Self-Acting Mule," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(3), pages 231-262, September.
    5. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1989. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 447-480, March.
    6. Joesph E. Stiglitz, 1975. "Incentives, Risk, and Information: Notes Towards a Theory of Hierarchy," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 6(2), pages 552-579, Autumn.
    7. Xavier Freixas & Roger Guesnerie & Jean Tirole, 1985. "Planning under Incomplete Information and the Ratchet Effect," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(2), pages 173-191.
    8. Lazear, Edward P, 1986. "Salaries and Piece Rates," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(3), pages 405-431, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Colin Green & John Heywood, 2012. "Don't Forget the Gravy! Are Bonuses and Time Rates Complements?," Working Papers 13424023, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    2. 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.
    3. Michael Waldman, 2012. "Theory and Evidence in Internal Labor Markets," Introductory Chapters,in: Robert Gibbons & John Roberts (ed.), The Handbook of Organizational Economics Princeton University Press.
    4. Joshua Herries & Daniel I. Rees & Jeffrey S. Zax, 2003. "Interdependence in worker productivity," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(5), pages 585-604.
    5. Ben-Ner, Avner & Kong, Fanmin & Lluis, Stéphanie, 2012. "Uncertainty, task environment, and organization design: An empirical investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 281-313.
    6. Nathalie Greenan & Edward Lorenz, 2009. "Learning Organisations: the importance of work organisation for innovation," Working Papers halshs-01376968, HAL.
    7. 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.
    8. Aidan R. Vining, 2003. "Internal Market Failure: A Framework for Diagnosing Firm Inefficiency," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(2), pages 431-457, March.
    9. Domenech, Jordi, 2005. "Labour market adjustment to economic downturns in the Catalan textile industry, 1880-1910: did employers breach implicit contracts?," Economic History Working Papers 22333, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    10. Cardella, Eric & Depew, Briggs, 2016. "Testing for the Ratchet Effect: Evidence from a Real-Effort Work Task," IZA Discussion Papers 9981, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. 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.
    12. Bingley, P. & Eriksson, T, 2001. "Pay Spread and Skewness. Employee Effort and Firm Productivity," Papers 01-2, Aarhus School of Business - Department of Economics.
    13. Bhaskar, Venkataraman, 2014. "The Ratchet Effect Re-examined: A Learning Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 9956, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. Stefanec, Noah Patrick, 2010. "Incentive pay: Productivity, sorting, and adjacent rents," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 171-179, April.
    15. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    16. Robert Gibbons, 2005. "Incentives Between Firms (and Within)," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(1), pages 2-17, January.
    17. Colin P. Green & John S. Heywood, 2016. "Don't Forget the Gravy! Are Bonuses Just Added on Top of Salaries?," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(3), pages 490-513, July.
    18. Arghya Ghosh & Takao Kato & Hodaka Morita, 2012. "Continuous improvement and competitive pressure in the presence of discrete innovation," Discussion Papers 2012-17, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    19. 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.
    20. Avner Ben-Ner & Fanmin Kong & Stephanie Lluis, "undated". "Uncertainty and Organization Design," Working Papers 0107, Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus).
    21. repec:eee:gamebe:v:107:y:2018:i:c:p:182-202 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. 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.
    23. Socha, Karolina, 2014. "Mixed reimbursement of hospitals: Securing high activity and global expenditures control?," COHERE Working Paper 2014:3, University of Southern Denmark, COHERE - Centre of Health Economics Research.
    24. Dino Gerardi & Lucas Maestri, 2015. "Dynamic Contracting with Limited Commitment and the Ratchet Effect," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 401, Collegio Carlo Alberto.

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