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Partial Gift Exchange in an Experimental Labor Market: Impact of Subject Population Differences, Productivity Differences, and Effort Requests on Behavior

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  • R. Lynn Hannan

    (Georgia State University)

  • John H. Kagel

    (Ohio State University)

  • Donald V. Moser

    (University of Pittsburgh)

Abstract

We report a gift exchange experiment. Firms make wage offers; workers respond by determining an effort level. Higher effort is more costly to workers, and firms have no mechanism for punishing or rewarding workers. Consistent with the gift exchange hypothesis, workers provide more effort at higher wages, but undergraduates provide substantially less effort than MBAs. Evidence suggests this results from differences in prior work experience. Firms' nonbinding effort requests are at least partially honored, resulting in increased overall effort for undergraduates. Although higher wages are relatively more costly for lower productivity firms, workers do not provide them with more effort.

Suggested Citation

  • R. Lynn Hannan & John H. Kagel & Donald V. Moser, 2002. "Partial Gift Exchange in an Experimental Labor Market: Impact of Subject Population Differences, Productivity Differences, and Effort Requests on Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 923-951, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:v:20:y:2002:i:4:p:923-951
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Yellen, Janet L, 1984. "Efficiency Wage Models of Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 200-205, May.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
    3. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1995. " Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(2), pages 295-307, June.
    4. Ernst FEHR & Simon GÄCHTER & Georg KIRCHSTEIGER, 1994. "Reciprocal Fairness and Noncompensating Wage Differentials," Vienna Economics Papers vie9401, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.
    5. Levine, David I, 1993. "Fairness, Markets, and Ability to Pay: Evidence from Compensation Executives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1241-1259, December.
    6. Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein, 1997. "Explaining Bargaining Impasse: The Role of Self-Serving Biases," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 109-126, Winter.
    7. George A. Akerlof, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-569.
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