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Performance Pay and Multi-dimensional Sorting: Productivity, Preferences and Gender

  • Dohmen, Thomas

    ()

    (University of Bonn)

  • Falk, Armin

    ()

    (University of Bonn)

This paper studies the impact of incentives on worker self-selection in a controlled laboratory experiment. In a first step we elicit subjects' productivity levels. Subjects then face the choice between a fixed or a variable payment scheme. Depending on the treatment, the variable payment is either a piece rate, a tournament or a revenue-sharing scheme. We elicit additional individual characteristics such as subjects’ risk attitudes, measures of self-assessment and overconfidence, social preferences, gender and personality. We also elicit self-reported measures of work effort, stress and exhaustion. Our main findings are as follows. First, output is much higher in the variable pay schemes (piece rate, tournament, and revenue sharing) compared to the fixed payment scheme. Second, this difference is largely driven by productivity sorting. On average, the more productive a worker is, the more likely he self-selects into the variable pay scheme. Third, relative self-assessment and overconfidence affect worker self-selection, in particular into tournaments. Fourth, risk averse workers prefer fixed payments and are less likely to sort into variable pay schemes. Fifth, people endowed with social preferences are less likely to sort into tournaments. Sixth, variable pay schemes attract men more than women, a difference that is partly explained by gender-specific risk attitudes. Seventh, self-selection is also affected by personality differences. Finally, reported effort is significantly higher in all variable pay conditions than in the fixed wage condition. In sum, our findings underline the importance of multi-dimensional sorting, i.e., the tendency for different incentive schemes to systematically attract people with different abilities, preferences, self-assessments, gender and personalities.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2001.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: American Economic Review, 2011, 101 (2), 556-590
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2001
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  1. Goldin, Claudia, 1986. "Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: A Historical Analysis," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(1), pages 1-27, January.
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  4. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Bognanno, Michael L, 1990. "Do Tournaments Have Incentive Effects?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1307-24, December.
  5. Charles Brown, 1992. "Wage Levels and Method of Pay," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(3), pages 366-375, Autumn.
  6. Armin Falk & James J. Heckman, 2009. "Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," Working Papers 200935, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  7. Dan Lovallo & Colin Camerer, 1999. "Overconfidence and Excess Entry: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 306-318, March.
  8. Bohnet, Iris & Kubler, Dorothea, 2005. "Compensating the cooperators: is sorting in the prisoner's dilemma possible?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 61-76, January.
  9. Lazear, Edward P, 1986. "Salaries and Piece Rates," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(3), pages 405-31, July.
  10. Englmaier, Florian & Wambach, Achim, 2010. "Optimal incentive contracts under inequity aversion," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 312-328, July.
  11. W. Bentley MacLeod & James Malcomson, 1997. "Motivation and Markets," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 339., Boston College Department of Economics.
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  14. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1985. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 85-21, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  15. Christian Grund & Dirk Sliwka, 2002. "Envy and Compassion in Tournaments," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse32_2002, University of Bonn, Germany.
  16. Daniel Parent, 1999. "Methods of Pay and Earnings: A Longitudinal Analysis," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(1), pages 71-86, October.
  17. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 511, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  18. Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe, 2006. "Cross-sectional Earnings Risk and Occupational Sorting: The Role of Risk Attitudes," IZA Discussion Papers 1930, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Nalbantian, Haig & Schotter, Andrew, 1994. "Productivity Under Group Incentives: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 94-04, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  22. Charles Brown, 1990. "Firms' choice of method of pay," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 43(3), pages 165-182, February.
  23. Fahr, Rene & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2000. "Fairness as a constraint on trust in reciprocity: earned property rights in a reciprocal exchange experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 275-282, March.
  24. Macleod, W.B. & Kenemoto, Y., 1990. "The Ratchet Effect and the Market for Second-Hand Workers," Cahiers de recherche 9027, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  25. Bernard Salanié, 2003. "Testing Contract Theory," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 49(3), pages 461-477.
  26. Imran Rasul & Iwan Barankay & Orana Bandiera, 2005. "Social preferences and the response to incentives: Evidence from personnel data," Natural Field Experiments 00212, The Field Experiments Website.
  27. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  28. Joanne Salop & Steven C. Salop, 1976. "Self-selection and turnover in the labor market," Special Studies Papers 80, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  29. Oberholzer-Gee Felix & Eichenberger Reiner, 2008. "Fairness in Extended Dictator Game Experiments," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-21, July.
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  34. repec:eme:rlepps:v:18:y:1999:i:1999:p:177-242 is not listed on IDEAS
  35. Joanne Salop & Steven Salop, 1976. "Self-Selection and Turnover in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 619-627.
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