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The Sequencing of Gift Exchange: A Field Trial

Listed author(s):
  • Carpenter, Jeffrey P.

    ()

    (Middlebury College)

There is now an extensive literature on "gift exchange" showing that when principals and agents can trade "gifts" (rewards that should not emerge in a competitive equilibrium), exchange becomes more efficient. However, it is not obvious how gift exchange should be organized if the principal's goal is to increase the performance of a reciprocal agent. Specifically, who should make the first gift, the principal or the agent? Although both orderings, by themselves, have been hypothesized and examined in theory and experiments, the literature is largely silent on the comparison. I report the results of a field experiment that compares the principal-first and agent-first orderings to each other and a gift-less control. Consistent with the previous experimental literature, I find that principal-first, gifts do increase agent performance. Unlike the literature, however, I find that agent-first, gifts are also effective. Comparing the two, I see that the agent-first ordering works best, is clearly cheaper to implement and differences appear on both the extensive and intensive margins.

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File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp10736.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 10736.

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Length: 16 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2017
Publication status: forthcoming in: the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10736
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  1. Jean Tirole & Roland Bénabou, 2006. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1652-1678, December.
  2. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 285-300, October.
  3. Johannes Abeler & Steffen Altmann & Sebastian Kube & Matthias Wibral, 2010. "Gift Exchange and Workers' Fairness Concerns: When Equality is Unfair," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(6), pages 1299-1324, December.
  4. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2008. "Anonymity, reciprocity, and conformity: Evidence from voluntary contributions to a national park in Costa Rica," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1047-1060, June.
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  6. repec:pri:rpdevs:gamespaper.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Newman, George E. & Jeremy Shen, Y., 2012. "The counterintuitive effects of thank-you gifts on charitable giving," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 973-983.
  8. Carl Mellström & Magnus Johannesson, 2008. "Crowding Out in Blood Donation: Was Titmuss Right?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(4), pages 845-863, 06.
  9. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
  10. George A. Akerlof, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-569.
  11. Dean S. Karlan, 2005. "Using Experimental Economics to Measure Social Capital and Predict Financial Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1688-1699, December.
  12. Sebastian Kube & Michel Andre Marechal & Clemens Puppe, 2012. "The Currency of Reciprocity: Gift Exchange in the Workplace," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1644-1662, June.
  13. Uri Gneezy & John A List, 2006. "Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1365-1384, 09.
  14. Armin Falk, 2007. "Gift Exchange in the Field," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1501-1511, 09.
  15. Eric T. Anderson & Duncan I. Simester, 2008. "—Does Demand Fall When Customers Perceive That Prices Are Unfair? The Case of Premium Pricing for Large Sizes," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(3), pages 492-500, 05-06.
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