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Gift Exchange within a Firm: Evidence from a Field Experiment

  • Bellemare, Charles


    (Université Laval)

  • Shearer, Bruce S.


    (Université Laval)

We present results from a field experiment testing the gift-exchange hypothesis inside a tree-planting firm paying its workforce incentive contracts. Firm managers told a crew of tree planters they would receive a pay raise for one day as a result of a surplus not attributable to past planting productivity. We compare planter productivity – the number of trees planted per day – on the day the gift was handed out with productivity on previous and subsequent days of planting on the same block, and thus under similar planting conditions. We find direct evidence that the gift had a significant and positive effect on daily planter productivity, controlling for planter-fixed effects, weather conditions and other random daily shocks. Moreover, reciprocity is the strongest when the relationship between planters and the firm is longterm.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2696.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as "Gift giving and worker productivity: Evidence from a firm-level experiment" in: Games and Economic Behavior, 2009, 67 (1), 233-244
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2696
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1998. "Gift exchange and reciprocity in competitive experimental markets," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5909, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. Harry J. Paarsch & Bruce S. Shearer, 1996. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages, and Incentive Effects: Statistical Evidence from Payroll Records," CIRANO Working Papers 96s-31, CIRANO.
  3. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2007. "Incentives for Managers and Inequality among Workers: Evidence from a Firm-Level Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 729-773.
  4. Gachter, Simon & Falk, Armin, 2002. " Reputation and Reciprocity: Consequences for the Labour Relation," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(1), pages 1-26.
  5. Heike Hennig‐Schmidt & Abdolkarim Sadrieh & Bettina Rockenbach, 2010. "In Search of Workers' Real Effort Reciprocity—a Field and a Laboratory Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 817-837, 06.
  6. Michel Marechal & Puppe Clemens & Sebastian Kube, 2006. "Putting reciprocity to work - positive versus negative responses in the field," Natural Field Experiments 00291, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Fehr, Ernst & Götte, Lorenz, 2004. "Do Workers Work More When Wages Are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 1002, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Goette, 2002. "Do workers work more if wages are high? Evidence from a randomized field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00240, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Gachter, Simon, 1998. "Reciprocity and economics: The economic implications of Homo Reciprocans1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 845-859, May.
  10. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
  11. repec:oup:qjecon:v:112:y:1997:i:2:p:407-41 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Michel André Maréchal & Christian Thöni, 2007. "Do Managers Reciprocate? Field Experimental Evidence From a Competitive Market," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2007 2007-09, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  13. Camerer, Colin & Babcock, Linda & Loewenstein, George & Thaler, Richard, 1996. "Labor Supply of New York City Cab Drivers: One Day At A time," Working Papers 960, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  14. Armin Falk, 2007. "Gift Exchange in the Field," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1501-1511, 09.
  15. repec:oup:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:2:p:729-773 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. H. Lorne Carmichael & W. Bentley MacLeod, 1997. "Gift Giving and the Evolution of Cooperation," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 338., Boston College Department of Economics.
  17. Dickinson, David L, 1999. "An Experimental Examination of Labor Supply and Work Intensities," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 638-70, October.
  18. Adriana D. Kugler & Gilles Saint-Paul, 2004. "How Do Firing Costs Affect Worker Flows in a World with Adverse Selection?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 553-584, July.
  19. repec:oup:qjecon:v:97:y:1982:i:4:p:543-69 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Herbert A. Simon, 1991. "Organizations and Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 25-44, Spring.
  21. Gary Charness, 2004. "Attribution and Reciprocity in an Experimental Labor Market," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 665-688, July.
  22. Falk, Armin & Gachter, Simon & Kovacs, Judit, 1999. "Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives in a repeated game with incomplete contracts," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 251-284, June.
  23. R. Lynn Hannan & John H. Kagel & Donald V. Moser, 2002. "Partial Gift Exchange in an Experimental Labor Market: Impact of Subject Population Differences, Productivity Differences, and Effort Requests on Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 923-951, October.
  24. James C. Cox & Cary A. Deck, 2005. "On the Nature of Reciprocal Motives," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 43(3), pages 623-635, July.
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