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Effort and comparison income: experimental and survey evidence

  • Andrew E. Clark

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics)

  • David Masclet

    (CREM - Centre de Recherche en Economie et Management - UR1 - Université de Rennes 1 - Université de Caen Basse-Normandie - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Marie Claire Villeval


    (GATE Lyon Saint-Étienne - Groupe d'analyse et de théorie économique - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UCBL - Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - Université Jean Monnet - Saint-Etienne - PRES Université de Lyon - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon)

The authors test the hypothesis that individual effort on the job depends both on one's own income and on the individual's position in the relevant income distribution. Combining experimental evidence from a gift-exchange game with multi-country ISSP survey data, they analyze the extent to which relative income affects an individual's effort, finding that an individual's rank in the income distribution more strongly determines effort than does others' average income, which suggests that comparisons are more ordinal than cardinal. Their experiment also reveals that comparisons over time affect effort: individuals who received higher income offers or enjoyed higher income rank in the past exerted lower levels of effort for a given current income and rank.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number halshs-00459777.

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Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 2010, 63 (3), pp.407-426
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00459777
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