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No Margin, no Mission? A Field Experiment on Incentives for public service delivery

  • Nava Ashraf
  • Oriana Bandiera
  • Kelsey Jack

A substantial body of research investigates the design of incentives in firms, yet less is known about incentives in organizations that hire individuals to perform tasks with positive social spillovers. We conduct a field experiment in which agents hired by a public health organization are randomly allocated to four groups. Agents in the control group receive a standard volunteer contract often offered for this type of task, whereas agents in the three treatment groups receive small financial rewards, large financial rewards, and non-financial rewards, respectively. The analysis yields three main findings. First, non-financial rewards are more effective at eliciting effort than either financial rewards or the volunteer contract. The effect of financial rewards, both large and small, is much smaller and not significantly different from zero. Second, non-financial rewards elicit effort both by leveraging intrinsic motivation for the cause and by facilitating social comparison among agents. Third, contrary to existing laboratory evidence, financial incentives do not crowd out intrinsic motivation in this setting.

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Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series with number 035.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stieop:035
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

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  9. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2005. "Social Preferences and the Response to Incentives: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 917-962, August.
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  13. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2006. "Contests For Status," Working Papers 0604, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.
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  17. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2010. "Social image concerns and prosocial behavior: Field evidence from a nonlinear incentive scheme," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 225-237, November.
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  22. Soetevent, Adriaan R., 2003. "Anonymity in giving in a natural context : an economic field experiment in thirty churches," CCSO Working Papers 200308, University of Groningen, CCSO Centre for Economic Research.
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