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

Author

Listed:
  • Huck, Steffen

    () (University College London)

  • Seltzer, Andrew

    () (Royal Holloway, University of London)

  • Wallace, Brian

    () (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Huck, Steffen & Seltzer, Andrew & Wallace, Brian, 2004. "Deferred Compensation and Gift Exchange: An Experimental Investigation into Multi-Period Labor Markets," IZA Discussion Papers 1193, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1193
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-283.
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    3. Ernst Fehr & Alexander Klein & Klaus M. Schmidt, "undated". "Fairness, Incentives and Contractual Incompleteness," IEW - Working Papers 072, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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    5. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 1999. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 106-134, February.
    6. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
    7. George A. Akerlof, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-569.
    8. 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 470-485, August.
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    12. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Riedl, Arno, 1996. "Involuntary Unemployment and Non-compensating Wage Differentials in an Experimental Labour Market," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(434), pages 106-121, January.
    13. repec:cup:apsrev:v:95:y:2001:i:01:p:131-144_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Bohnet, Iris & Frey, Bruno S. & Huck, Steffen, 2001. "More Order with Less Law: On Contract Enforcement, Trust, and Crowding," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 95(01), pages 131-144, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Paul Hek & Daniel Vuuren, 2011. "Are older workers overpaid? A literature review," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 18(4), pages 436-460, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    gift exchange; deferred compensation; pensions; experimental labor economics; personnel economics; incentives; shirking;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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