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A General Test of Gaming

  • Pascal Courty
  • Gerald Marschke

An important lesson from the incentive literature is that explicit incentives may elicit dysfunctional and unintended responses, also known as gaming responses. The existence of these responses, however, is difficult to demonstrate in practice because this behavior is typically hidden from the researcher. We present a simple model showing that one can identify gaming by estimating the correlation between a performance measure and the true goal of the organization before and after the measure has been activated. Our hypothesis is that gaming takes place if this correlation decreases with activation. Using data from a public sector organization, we find evidence consistent with our hypothesis. We draw implications for the selection of performance measures.

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Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2004/33.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2004/33
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  1. Pascal Courty & Gerald Marschke, 2004. "An Empirical Investigation of Gaming Responses to Explicit Performance Incentives," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 23-56, January.
  2. Gerald Marschke, 2002. "Performance Incentives and Bureaucratic Behavior: Evidence from a Federal Bureaucracy," Discussion Papers 02-07, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
  3. Gibbs, Michael & Merchant, Kenneth A. & Van der Stede, Wim A. & Vargus, Mark A., 2004. "Performance Measure Properties and Incentives," IZA Discussion Papers 1356, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Heckman, James J & Smith, Jeffrey, 1997. "Making the Most Out of Programme Evaluations and Social Experiments: Accounting for Heterogeneity in Programme Impacts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(4), pages 487-535, October.
  5. Cragg, Michael, 1997. "Performance Incentives in the Public Sector: Evidence from the Job Training Partnership Act," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 147-68, April.
  6. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
  7. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  8. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1993. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," NBER Working Papers 4480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gerald Marschke & Pascal Courty, 2002. "Dynamics of Performance Measurement Systems," Discussion Papers 02-09, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
  10. Healy, Paul M., 1985. "The effect of bonus schemes on accounting decisions," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1-3), pages 85-107, April.
  11. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  12. Robert S. Gay & Michael E. Borus, 1980. "Validating Performance Indicators for Employment and Training Programs," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 15(1), pages 29-48.
  13. Levitt, Steven D., 2002. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt2wj7v1j4, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  14. Paul Oyer, 1998. "Fiscal Year Ends And Nonlinear Incentive Contracts: The Effect On Business Seasonality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 149-185, February.
  15. Robert Gibbons, 1996. "Incentives and Careers in Organizations," NBER Working Papers 5705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. James J. Heckman & Carolyn Heinrich & Jeffrey Smith, 2002. "The Performance of Performance Standards," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 778-811.
  17. George Baker, 2002. "Distortion and Risk in Optimal Incentive Contracts," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 728-751.
  18. Simon Burgess & Carol Propper & Deborah Wilson, 2002. "Does Performance Monitoring Work? A Review of the Evidence from the UK Public Sector, Excluding Health Care," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 02/049, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  19. James J. Heckman, 1991. "Randomization and Social Policy Evaluation," NBER Technical Working Papers 0107, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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