On the Cost-vs-Quality Tradeoff in Make-or-Buy Decisions
The make-or-buy decision is analyzed in a simple two-task principal-agent model. There is a cost-saving/quality tradeoff in effort provision. The principal faces a dichotomous choice between weak ("make") and strong ("buy") cost-saving incentives for the agent; the dichotomy is due to an incomplete-contracting limitation necessitating that one party be residual claimant. Choosing "buy" rather than "make" leads to higher cost-saving effort and -- in a plausible "main case" -- to lower quality effort; this in spite of stronger direct quality-provision incentives in the former case.
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