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Reciprocity and Payment Schemes: When Equality Is Unfair

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  • Abeler, Johannes

    () (University of Oxford)

  • Altmann, Steffen

    () (University of Copenhagen)

  • Kube, Sebastian

    () (University of Bonn)

  • Wibral, Matthias

    () (Maastricht University)

Abstract

A growing literature stresses the importance of reciprocity, especially for employment relations. In this paper, we study the interaction of different payment modes with reciprocity. In particular, we analyze how equal wages affect performance and efficiency in an environment characterized by contractual incompleteness. In our experiment, one principal is matched with two agents. The principal pays equal wages in one treatment and can set individual wages in the other. We find that the use of equal wages elicits substantially lower efforts and efficiency. This is not caused by monetary incentives per se since under both wage schemes it is profit-maximizing for agents to exert high efforts. The treatment difference is rather driven by the fact that reciprocity is violated far more frequently in the equal wage treatment. Agents suffering from a violation of reciprocity subsequently withdraw effort. Our results suggest that individual reward and punishment opportunities are crucial for making reciprocity a powerful contract enforcement device.

Suggested Citation

  • Abeler, Johannes & Altmann, Steffen & Kube, Sebastian & Wibral, Matthias, 2006. "Reciprocity and Payment Schemes: When Equality Is Unfair," IZA Discussion Papers 2500, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2500
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gary Charness & Ramón Cobo-Reyes & Natalia Jiménez & Juan Antonio Lacomba & Francisco Lagos, 2010. "The power of delegation: Allowing workers to choose their wage," ThE Papers 09/07, Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada..
    2. Simon Gächter & Daniele Nosenzo & Martin Sefton, 2012. "The Impact of Social Comparisons on Reciprocity," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(4), pages 1346-1367, December.
    3. Sebastian J. Goerg & Sebastian Kube & Ro'i Zultan, 2010. "Treating Equals Unequally: Incentives in Teams, Workers' Motivation, and Production Technology," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(4), pages 747-772, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    incomplete contracts; social norms; reciprocity; gift exchange; wage setting; wage equality; laboratory experiment; multiple agents;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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