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Self-Control at Work

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  • Supreet Kaur
  • Michael Kremer
  • Sendhil Mullainathan

Abstract

Self-control problems change the logic of agency theory by partly aligning the interests of the firm and worker: both now value contracts that elicit future effort. Findings from a year-long field experiment with full-time data entry workers support this idea. First, workers increase output by voluntarily choosing dominated contracts (which penalize low output but give no additional rewards for high output). Second, effort increases closer to (randomly assigned) paydays. Third, the contract and payday effects are strongly correlated within workers, and this correlation grows with experience. We suggest that workplace features such as high-powered incentives or effort monitoring may provide self-control benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Supreet Kaur & Michael Kremer & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2015. "Self-Control at Work," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(6), pages 1227-1277.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/683822
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Spiegler, Ran, 2014. "Bounded Rationality and Industrial Organization," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199334261.
    2. David K. Levine & Drew Fudenberg, 2006. "A Dual-Self Model of Impulse Control," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1449-1476, December.
    3. Tanjim Hossain & John A. List, 2012. "The Behavioralist Visits the Factory: Increasing Productivity Using Simple Framing Manipulations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(12), pages 2151-2167, December.
    4. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Goette, 2007. "Do Workers Work More if Wages Are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 298-317, March.
    5. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2007. "Incentives for Managers and Inequality among Workers: Evidence from a Firm-Level Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 729-773.
    6. Nicholas Burger & Gary Charness & John Lynham, 2008. "Three Field Experiments on Procrastination and Willpower," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002399, David K. Levine.
    7. Ximena Cadena & Antoinette Schoar & Alexandra Cristea & Héber M. Delgado-Medrano, 2011. "Fighting Procrastination in the Workplace: An Experiment," NBER Working Papers 16944, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Shapiro, Jesse M., 2005. "Is there a daily discount rate? Evidence from the food stamp nutrition cycle," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 303-325, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jeborg:v:149:y:2018:i:c:p:372-388 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. HASEBE Takuya & KONISHI Yoshifumi & SHIN Kong Joo & MANAGI Shunsuke, 2018. "White Collar Exemption: Panacea for long work hours and low earnings?," Discussion papers 18002, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    3. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:205-225 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:eee:deveco:v:133:y:2018:i:c:p:187-200 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Cheung, Stephen L. & Johnstone, Lachlan, 2017. "True Overconfidence, Revealed through Actions: An Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 10545, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Sarojini Hirshleifer, 2017. "Incentives for Effort or Outputs? A Field Experiment to Improve Student Performance," Working Papers 201701, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics.
    7. Larbi Alaoui & Christian Fons-Rosen, 2016. "Know when to fold 'em: The grit factor," Economics Working Papers 1521, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 2016.
    8. Itzik Fadlon & David Laibson, 2017. "Paternalism and Pseudo-Rationality," NBER Working Papers 23620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Heywood, John S. & Jirjahn, Uwe & Struewing, Cornelia, 2017. "Locus of control and performance appraisal," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 205-225.
    10. Michael D. Frakes & Melissa F. Wasserman, 2016. "Procrastination in the Workplace: Evidence from the U.S. Patent Office," NBER Working Papers 22987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A., 2016. "Biology and Gender in the Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 10386, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. repec:eee:jetheo:v:173:y:2018:i:c:p:201-230 is not listed on IDEAS

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