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Deferred Compensation and Gift Exchange: An Experimental Investigation into Multi-Period Labor Markets

  • Huck, Steffen

    ()

    (University College London)

  • Seltzer, Andrew

    ()

    (Royal Holloway, University of London)

  • Wallace, Brian

    ()

    (Royal Holloway, University of London)

This paper examines the relationship between firms’ wage offers and workers’ supply of effort using a three-period experiment. In equilibrium, firms will offer deferred compensation: first period productivity is positive and wages are zero, while third period productivity is zero and wages are positive. The experiment produces strong evidence that deferred compensation increases worker effort; in about 70 percent of cases subjects supplied the optimal effort given the wage offer, and there was a strong effort response to future-period wages. We also find some evidence of gift exchange; worker players increased the effort levels in response to above equilibrium wage offers by a human, but not in response to similar offers by a computer. Finally, we find that firm players who are initially hesitant to defer compensation learn over time that it is beneficial to do so.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1193.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: American Economic Review, 2011, 101 (2), 819-843
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1193
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  1. Gokhale, Jagadeesh & Groshen, Erica L & Neumark, David, 1995. "Do Hostile Takeovers Reduce Extramarginal Wage Payments?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(3), pages 470-85, August.
  2. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-84, December.
  3. Fehr, Ernst & Klein, Alexander & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Fairness, Incentives and Contractual Incompleteness," Discussion Papers in Economics 18, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  4. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  5. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1996. "Involuntary unemployment and non-compensating wage differentials in an experimental labour market," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5917, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  6. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter, 1997. "Reciprocity as a contract enforcement device: experimental evidence," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5911, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  7. Joanne Salop & Steve Salop, 1976. "Self-selection and turnover in the labor market," Special Studies Papers 80, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. Iris Bohnet & Bruno S. Frey & Steffen Huck, . "More Order with Less Law: On Contract Enforcement, Trust, and Crowding," IEW - Working Papers 052, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  9. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  10. Akerlof, George A, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-69, November.
  11. Edward P. Lazear, 1996. "Performance Pay and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 5672, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 2003. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Labor and Demography 0305001, EconWPA.
  13. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  14. Hutchens, Robert M, 1987. "A Test of Lazear's Theory of Delayed Payment Contracts," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages S153-70, October.
  15. Salop, Joanne & Salop, Steven, 1976. "Self-Selection and Turnover in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 619-27, November.
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