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Fairness and Incentives in a Multi-Task Principle-Agent Model

  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

This Paper reports on a two-task principal-agent experiment in which only one task is contractible. The principal can either offer a piece-rate contract or a (voluntary) bonus to the agent. Bonus contracts strongly outperform piece rate contracts. Many principals reward high efforts on both tasks with substantial bonuses. Agents anticipate this and provide high efforts on both tasks. In contrast, almost all agents with a piece-rate contract focus on the first task and disregard the second. Principals understand this and predominantly offer bonus contracts. This behaviour contradicts the self-interest theory but is consistent with theories of fairness.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4464.

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Date of creation: Jun 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4464
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  1. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4qz9k8vg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  7. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  8. Keser, Claudia & Willinger, Marc, 2000. "Principals' principles when agents' actions are hidden," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 163-185, January.
  9. James C. Cox & Daniel Friedman & Steven Gjerstad, 2006. "A Tractable Model of Reciprocity and Fairness," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2006-05, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  10. David K Levine, 1997. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiments," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2047, David K. Levine.
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  13. Hellwig, Martin & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "Discrete-time approximations of the Holmström-Milgrom Brownian-motion model of intertemporal incentive provision," Papers 98-06, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
  14. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1989. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 447-80, March.
  15. Anderhub, Vital & Gächter, Simon & Königstein, Manfred, 1999. "Efficient contracting and fair play in a simple principal-agent experiment," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1999,82, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  16. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-28, March.
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  18. Gachter, Simon & Falk, Armin, 2002. " Reputation and Reciprocity: Consequences for the Labour Relation," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(1), pages 1-26.
  19. 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.
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  22. Werner Güth & Manfred Königstein & Judit Kovács & Enikõ Zala-Mezõ, 2001. "Fairness Within Firms: The Case Of One Principal And Multiple Agents," Schmalenbach Business Review (sbr), LMU Munich School of Management, vol. 53(2), pages 82-101, April.
  23. 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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