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Low-powered incentives

Author

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  • Joseph A. Ritter
  • Lowell J. Taylor

Abstract

We study low-powered incentives in a model that captures important features of workplaces in which incentive-pay approaches are minimally relevant. Our motivation is that incentive pay, while not rare, is clearly far less common than are agency problems: many firms with agency problems nonetheless pay fixed compensation and offer continued employment to all but those workers judged "unsatisfactory" according to largely subjective criteria. We find that low-powered incentives can achieve efficient outcomes in simple workplaces and function surprisingly well even when the environment is characterized by unobservable performance heterogeneity and a high degree of complementarity among workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph A. Ritter & Lowell J. Taylor, 1999. "Low-powered incentives," Working Papers 1999-005, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:1999-005
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Kremer, M & Maskin, E, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation by Skill," Working papers 96-23, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    3. Michael Kremer, 1993. "The O-Ring Theory of Economic Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 551-575.
    4. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-580, June.
    5. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
    6. W. Bentley MacLeod & Daniel Parent, 1998. "Job Characteristics and the Form of Compensation," CIRANO Working Papers 98s-08, CIRANO.
    7. Prendergast, Canice & Topel, Robert H, 1996. "Favoritism in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 958-978, October.
    8. 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.
    9. Malcomson, James M, 1984. "Work Incentives, Hierarchy, and Internal Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 486-507, June.
    10. Paul R. Milgrom, 1981. "Good News and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(2), pages 380-391, Autumn.
    11. Michael Kremer & Eric Maskin, 1996. "Wage Inequality and Segregation," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1777, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Surajeet Chakravarty, 2005. "Resolving Contractual Disputes: Arbitration vs Mediation," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 05/117, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    2. Rebitzer, James B. & Taylor, Lowell J., 2011. "Extrinsic Rewards and Intrinsic Motives: Standard and Behavioral Approaches to Agency and Labor Markets," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Wages;

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