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Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation

  • Barton H. Hamilton
  • Jack A. Nickerson
  • Hideo Owan

This paper identifies and evaluates rationales for team participation and for the effects of team composition on productivity using novel data from a garment plant that shifted from individual piece rate to group piece rate production over three years. The adoption of teams at the plant improved worker productivity by 14 percent on average. Productivity improvement was greatest for the earliest teams and diminished as more workers engaged in team production, providing support for the view that teams utilize collaborative skills, which are less valuable in individual production. High-productivity workers tended to join teams first, despite a loss in earnings in many cases, suggesting nonpecuniary benefits associated with teamwork. Finally, more heterogeneous teams were more productive, with average ability held constant, which is consistent with explanations emphasizing mutual team learning and intrateam bargaining.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/374182
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 111 (2003)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 465-497

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:111:y:2003:i:3:p:465-497
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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  1. Eric Rasmusen, 1987. "Moral Hazard in Risk-Averse Teams," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(3), pages 428-435, Autumn.
  2. Itoh, Hideshi, 1991. "Incentives to Help in Multi-agent Situations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 611-36, May.
  3. Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
  4. Daniel G. Hansen, 1997. "Worker Performance and Group Incentives: A Case Study," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 51(1), pages 37-49, October.
  5. Knez, Marc & Simester, Duncan, 2001. "Firm-Wide Incentives and Mutual Monitoring at Continental Airlines," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(4), pages 743-72, October.
  6. Roy Radner, 1986. "Repeated Partnership Games with Imperfect Monitoring and No Discounting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(1), pages 43-57.
  7. Gaynor, M. & Gertler, P., 1996. "Moral hazard and Risk Speading in Partnerships," Papers 96-09, RAND - Reprint Series.
  8. Patrick Legros & Steven A. Matthews, 1992. "Efficient and Nearly Efficient Partnerships," Discussion Papers 991R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  9. Barton H. Hamilton, 2000. "Does Entrepreneurship Pay? An Empirical Analysis of the Returns to Self-Employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 604-631, June.
  10. Leibowitz, Arleen & Tollison, Robert, 1980. "Free Riding, Shirking, and Team Production in Legal Partnerships," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(3), pages 380-94, July.
  11. Landers, Renee M & Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1996. "Rat Race Redux: Adverse Selection in the Determination of Work Hours in Law Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 329-48, June.
  12. Nalbantian, Haig & Schotter, Andrew, 1994. "Productivity Under Group Incentives: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 94-04, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  13. McAfee, R Preston & McMillan, John, 1991. "Optimal Contracts for Teams," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 32(3), pages 561-77, August.
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