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Fairness, Incentives and Contractual Incompleteness

  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Klein, Alexander
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

We show that concerns for fairness may have dramatic consequences for the optimal provision of incentives in a moral hazard context. Incentive contracts that are optimal when there are only selfish actors become inferior when some agents are concerned with fairness. Conversely, contracts that are doomed to fail when there are only selfish actors provide powerful incentives and become superior when there are also fair-minded players. These predictions are strongly supported by the results of a series of experiments. Furthermore, our results suggest that the existence of fair actors may be an important reason why many contracts are left deliberately incomplete.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2790.

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Date of creation: May 2001
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2790
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  1. Ilya Segal, 1999. "Complexity and Renegotiation: A Foundation for Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 57-82.
  2. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 457, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 2003. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Labor and Demography 0305001, EconWPA.
  4. Gary Charness and Matthew Rabin., 2000. "Social Preferences: Some Simple Tests and a New Model," Economics Working Papers E00-283, University of California at Berkeley.
  5. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1989. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 447-80, March.
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  7. Allen, Franklin & Gale, Douglas, 1992. "Measurement Distortion and Missing Contingencies in Optimal Contracts," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 2(1), pages 1-26, January.
  8. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
  9. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  10. Edlin, Aaron S & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1996. "Holdups, Standard Breach Remedies, and Optimal Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 478-501, June.
  11. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1999. "Foundations of Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 115-138.
  12. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  13. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  14. B. Douglas Bernheim & Michael D. Whinston, 1997. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1787, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  15. Che, Y.K. & Hausch, D.B., 1997. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," Working papers 9714, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  16. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  17. Georg Nöldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1992. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation - A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," Discussion Paper Serie A 417, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Aug 1993.
  18. Ernst Fehr & Klaus Schmidt, 2000. "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity – Evidence and Economic Applications," CESifo Working Paper Series 403, CESifo Group Munich.
  19. Schmidt, Klaus M. & Schnitzer, Monika, 1995. "The interaction of explicit and implicit contracts," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 193-199, May.
  20. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Scholarly Articles 12375014, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  21. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-1156.
  22. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
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