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Fairness and incentives in a multi-task principal-agent model

Listed author(s):
  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

This paper reports on a two-task principal agent experiment in which only one task is contractible. The principal can either offer a piece-rate contract or a (voluntary) bonus to the agent. Bonus contracts strongly outperform piece-rate contracts. Many principals reward high effort on both tasks with substantial bonuses. Agents anticipate this and provide high effort on both tasks, in contrast, almost all agents with a piece-rate contract focus on the first task and disregard the second. Principals understand this and predominantly offer bonus contracts. This behavior contradicts the self-interest theory but is consistent with theories of fairness.

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Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Munich Reprints in Economics with number 20657.

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Length:
Date of creation: 2004
Publication status: Published in Scandinavian Journal of Economics 3 106(2004): pp. 453-474
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:20657
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  1. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4qz9k8vg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  2. 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.
  3. Hellwig, Martin & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "Discrete-time approximations of the Holmström-Milgrom Brownian-motion model of intertemporal incentive provision," Papers 98-06, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
  4. David K Levine, 1997. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiments," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2047, David K. Levine.
  5. Brown, Martin & Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst, 2003. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," IZA Discussion Papers 897, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  7. W. Bentley MacLeod & Daniel Parent, 1999. "Job characteristics, wages, and the employment contract," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 13-27.
  8. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  9. Simon Gaechter & Armin Falk, "undated". "Reputation and Reciprocity: Consequences for the Labour Relation," IEW - Working Papers 019, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  10. James C. Cox & Daniel Friedman & Steven Gjerstad, 2006. "A Tractable Model of Reciprocity and Fairness," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2006-05, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  11. Keser, Claudia & Willinger, Marc, 2000. "Principals' principles when agents' actions are hidden," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 163-185, January.
  12. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  13. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
  14. Vital Anderhub & Simon Gaechter & Manfred Koenigstein, "undated". "Efficient Contracting and Fair Play in a Simple Principal-Agent Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 018, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  15. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-1156.
  16. Ernst Fehr & Alexander Klein & Klaus M Schmidt, 2005. "Contracts, Fairness and Incentives," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 666156000000000626, www.najecon.org.
  17. W. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1986. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Working Papers 585, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  18. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-328, March.
  19. 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.
  20. W. Güth & W. Klose & M. Königstein & J. Schwalbach, 1996. "An Experimental Study of a Dynamic Principal-Agent Relationship," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1996,95, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  21. Werner Güth & Manfred Königstein & Judit Kovács & Enikõ Zala-Mezõ, 2001. "Fairness Within Firms: The Case Of One Principal And Multiple Agents," Schmalenbach Business Review (sbr), LMU Munich School of Management, vol. 53(2), pages 82-101, April.
  22. repec:sae:ilrrev:v:43:y:1990:i:3:p:165-182 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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