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Cardiovascular Consequences of Unfair Pay

  • Falk, Armin


    (University of Bonn)

  • Menrath, Ingo

    (University of Duesseldorf)

  • Verde, Pablo Emilio


    (University of Duesseldorf)

  • Siegrist, Johannes


    (University of Duesseldorf)

This paper investigates physiological responses to perceptions of unfair pay. In a simple principal agent experiment agents produce revenue by working on a tedious task. Principals decide how this revenue is allocated between themselves and their agents. In this environment unfairness can arise if an agent's reward expectation is not met. Throughout the experiment we record agents' heart rate variability. Our findings provide evidence of a link between perceived unfairness and heart rate variability. The latter is an indicator of stress-related impaired cardiac autonomic control, which has been shown to predict coronary heart diseases in the long run. Establishing a causal link between unfair pay and heart rate variability therefore uncovers a mechanism of how perceptions of unfairness can adversely affect cardiovascular health. We further test potential adverse health effects of unfair pay using data from a large representative data set. Complementary to our experimental findings we find a strong and highly significant association between health outcomes, in particular cardiovascular health, and fairness of pay.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5720.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5720
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  1. Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2008. "Representative trust and reciprocity: Prevalence and determinants," Munich Reprints in Economics 20057, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1995. " Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(2), pages 295-307, June.
  3. Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2002. "Maintenance of and Innovation in Long-Term Panel Studies: The Case of the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP)," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 276, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  4. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
  6. Falk, Armin & Heckman, James J., 2009. "Lab Experiments Are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," IZA Discussion Papers 4540, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Currie, Janet & Madrian, Brigitte C., 1999. "Health, health insurance and the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 50, pages 3309-3416 Elsevier.
  8. Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Strong Reciprocity and Human Sociality," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2000-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  9. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  10. repec:oup:qjecon:v:97:y:1982:i:4:p:543-69 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2009. "Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Good Experiments," Discussion Papers 2009-04, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  12. repec:oup:qjecon:v:108:y:1993:i:2:p:437-59 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Altmann, Steffen & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B., 2010. "Implicit Contracts, Unemployment, and Labor Market Segmentation," IZA Discussion Papers 5001, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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