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The Ratchet Effect Re-examined: A Learning Perspective

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  • Bhaskar, Venkataraman

Abstract

We study dynamic moral hazard where principal and agent are symmetrically uncertain about job difficulty. Since effort is unobserved, shirking leads the principal to believe that the job is hard, increasing the agent's continuation value. So deterring shirking requires steeper incentives, which induce the agent to over-work today, since he can quit if the principal believes that the job is easy. With continuous effort choices, no interior effort is implementable in the first period. The agent's continuation value function is non-differentiable and convex, since the principal makes the agent indifferent between his discrete (participation) choices in the second period. The problem can be solved if the agent's participation decision is made continuous, or if there are long-term commitments, and we provide conditions for the first order approach to work. However, the impossibility result recurs in other agency models that combine discrete and continuous choices.

Suggested Citation

  • Bhaskar, Venkataraman, 2014. "The Ratchet Effect Re-examined: A Learning Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 9956, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9956
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sofia Moroni, 2016. "Experimentation in Organizations," Working Paper 5876, Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh.
    2. Arie, Guy, 2016. "Dynamic costs and moral hazard: A duality-based approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 1-50.
    3. Cardella, Eric & Depew, Briggs, 2016. "Testing for the Ratchet Effect: Evidence from a Real-Effort Work Task," IZA Discussion Papers 9981, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. repec:eee:gamebe:v:107:y:2018:i:c:p:182-202 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    envelope theorem; first-order approach; learning; moral hazard; ratchet effect;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law

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