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The Tenuous Trade-off between Risk and Incentives

  • Canice Prendergast
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    Empirical work testing for a negative trade-off between risk and incentives has not had much success: the data suggest a positive relationship between measures of uncertainty and incentives rather than the posited negative trade-off. I argue that the existing literature fails to account for an important effect of uncertainty on incentives through the allocation of responsibility to employees. When workers operate in certain settings, firms are content to assign tasks to workers and monitor their inputs. By contrast, when the situation is more uncertain, they delegate responsibility to workers but, to constrain their discretion, base compensation on observed output.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/341874
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    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

    Volume (Year): 110 (2002)
    Issue (Month): 5 (October)
    Pages: 1071-1102

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:110:y:2002:i:5:p:1071-1102
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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    1. Allen, Douglas & Lueck, Dean, 1992. "Contract Choice in Modern Agriculture: Cash Rent versus Cropshare," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 397-426, October.
    2. Sanford J Grossman & Oliver D Hart, 2001. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000339, David K. Levine.
    3. Norton, Seth W, 1988. "An Empirical Look at Franchising as an Organizational Form," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61(2), pages 197-218, April.
    4. Minkler, Alanson P., 1990. "An empirical analysis of a firm's decision to franchise," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 77-82, September.
    5. Rajesh Aggarwal & Andrew A. Samwick, 1998. "The Other Side of the Tradeoff: The Impact of Risk on Executive Compensation," NBER Working Papers 6634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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