What is a fair wage? Reference points, Entitlements and Gift Exchange
Society adopts institutions that can change incentives, reference points and entitlements for the economic agents. In this paper we look at two stylized wage setting institutions and their effect on wage offers and effort in the classic gift exchange experiments of Fehr, Kirchsteiger and Riedl (1993). The first one is the exogenously imposed minimum wage institution (first instituted in New Zealand in 1894). The second institution we look is an endogenous wage proposal institution where workers first make wage proposals. We find that the imposition of an exogenous minimum wage floor at the competitive outcome lowers average wage offers. However, workers do not negatively reciprocate and continue to offer high effort. In the second institution workers make non-binding (endogenous) minimum wage proposals. The introduction of endogenous minimum wage proposals marginally increases wage offers while, average effort decreases when wage proposals are not matched. Finally, relative to the baseline, overall efficiency with the non-binding minimum wage decreases, while, efficiency is only slightly higher under endogenous minimum wage proposals. We find that clear evidence that the institutional structure has important implications towards wage offers, effort and efficiency.
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