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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. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  2. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  3. 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.
  4. Hellwig, Martin F. & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Discrete-Time Approximations of the Holmström-Milgrom Brownian-Motion Model of Intertemporal Incentive Provision," Discussion Papers in Economics 22, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Fehr, Ernst & Klein, Alexander & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2004. "Contracts, Fairness, and Incentives," Discussion Papers in Economics 334, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  6. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1985. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 85-21, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  7. 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.
  8. Brown, Martin & Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst, 2003. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," IZA Discussion Papers 897, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. W. Bentley MacLeod & Daniel Parent, 1999. "Job characteristics, wages, and the employment contract," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 13-27.
  10. 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.
  11. Bengt Holmstrom & Paul R. Milgrom, 1985. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 742, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  12. Vital Anderhub & Simon Gaechter & Manfred Koenigstein, . "Efficient Contracting and Fair Play in a Simple Principal-Agent Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 018, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  13. David K. Levine, 1998. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 593-622, July.
  14. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  15. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5927, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  16. 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.
  17. W. Güth & W. Klose & M. Königstein & J. Schwalbach, 1996. "An Experimental Study of a Dynamic Principal-Agent Relationship," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1996,95, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  18. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3d04q5sm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  19. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  20. 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.
  21. W. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1986. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Working Papers 585, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  22. repec:sae:ilrrev:v:43:y:1990:i:3:p:165-182 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
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