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Adverse Specialization

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  • Glenn MacDonald
  • Leslie M. Marx

Abstract

We analyze a multiple-activity, principal-agent model in which the activities are naturally substitutable for the agent and complementary for the principal. A basic result is that the optimal compensation must cause the agent to view the activities as complements. This complementarity is achieved by employing a compensation scheme that is typically nonmonotone and makes success on multiple dimensions the sole source of large rewards. A number of empirical implications follow, along with explanations for some existing empirical findings. We also discuss applications to compensation in specific occupations.

Suggested Citation

  • Glenn MacDonald & Leslie M. Marx, 2001. "Adverse Specialization," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(4), pages 864-899, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:109:y:2001:i:4:p:864-899
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gautier, Axel & Wauthy, Xavier, 2007. "Teaching versus research: A multi-tasking approach to multi-department universities," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 273-295, February.
    2. Keith Bender & Colin Green & John Heywood, 2012. "Piece rates and workplace injury: Does survey evidence support Adam Smith?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 25(2), pages 569-590, January.
    3. Simon Burgess & Carol Propper & Marisa Ratto & Emma Tominey, 2004. "Incentives in the Public Sector: Evidence from a Government Agency," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 04/103, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    4. Heywood, John S. & Siebert, W. Stanley & Wei, Xiangdong, 2013. "The Consequences of a Piece Rate on Quantity and Quality: Evidence from a Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 7660, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Christian Espinosa & Juan Gorigoitía & Carlos Maquieira, 2012. "Nonlinear behaviour of EMBI index:the case of eastern European countries," Working Papers 37, Facultad de Economía y Empresa, Universidad Diego Portales.
    6. Balmaceda, Felipe, 2016. "Optimal task assignments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 1-18.
    7. John S. Heywood & Daniel Parent, 2012. "Performance Pay and the White-Black Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 249-290.
    8. Yann Kossi & Jean-Yves Lesueur & Mareva Sabatier, 2016. "Publish or teach? The role of the scientific environment on academics’ multitasking," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(3), pages 487-506.
    9. Fumi Kiyotaki, 2008. "Promotion Tournaments with Multiple Tasks," Birkbeck Working Papers in Economics and Finance 0804, Birkbeck, Department of Economics, Mathematics & Statistics.
    10. Burgess, Simon & Propper, Carol & Ratto, Marisa & Tominey, Emma, 2003. "Incentives in the Public Sector: Some Preliminary Evidence from a UK Government Agency," CEPR Discussion Papers 4010, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Felipe Balmaceda, 2012. "On the Optimality of One-size-fits-all Contracts: The Limited Liability Case," Documentos de Trabajo 291, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
    12. Florian Ederer & Richard Holden & Margaret Meyer, 2014. "Gaming and Strategic Opacity in Incentive Provision," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1935, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    13. Bag, Parimal Kanti & Pepito, Nona, 2011. "Double-edged transparency in teams," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 531-542.
    14. Michelle Brown & John Heywood, 2009. "Helpless in Finance: The Cost of Helping Effort Among Bank Employees," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 30(2), pages 176-195, June.
    15. Benoit, Jean-Pierre & Dubra, Juan, 2006. "The Problem of Prevention," Working Papers 06-01, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
    16. Bond, Philip & Gomes, Armando, 2009. "Multitask principal-agent problems: Optimal contracts, fragility, and effort misallocation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(1), pages 175-211, January.
    17. Chen, Bo, 2012. "All-or-nothing payments," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 133-142.
    18. João Paulo Vieito & António Cerqueira & Elísio Brandão & Walayet A. Khan, 2009. "Executive Compensation: the Finance Perspective," Portuguese Journal of Management Studies, ISEG, Universidade de Lisboa, vol. 0(1), pages 3-32.
    19. Heywood, John S. & Wei, Xiangdong & Ye, Guangliang, 2011. "Piece rates for professors," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 113(3), pages 285-287.
    20. Ricard Gil & Jordi Mondria, 2011. "Introducing managerial attention allocation in incentive contracts," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 335-358, September.
    21. Simon Burgess & Marisa Ratto, 2003. "The Role of Incentives in the Public Sector: Issues and Evidence," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 03/071, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    22. Baranchuk, Nina, 2008. "Organizing multiple related tasks into jobs: Diversification vs. competition," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(3), pages 599-603, June.
    23. Susan Athey & John Roberts, 2001. "Organizational Design: Decision Rights and Incentive Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 200-205, May.
    24. Marisa Ratto, 2006. "Task-specific effort costs and the trade-off between risk and efficiency," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 06/143, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    25. Prasad, Suraj & Tran, Hien, 2013. "Work practices, incentives for skills, and training," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 66-76.

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