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

  • 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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Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Scandinavian Journal of Economics 3 106(2004): pp. 453-474
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:20657
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  1. Ernst Fehr & Alexander Klein & Klaus M Schmidt, 2005. "Contracts, Fairness and Incentives," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 666156000000000626, www.najecon.org.
  2. Martin F. Hellwig & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2002. "Discrete-Time Approximations of the Holmstrom-Milgrom Brownian-Motion Model of Intertemporal Incentive Provision," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(6), pages 2225-2264, November.
  3. 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.
  4. Anderhub, Vital & Gächter, Simon & Königstein, Manfred, 1999. "Efficient contracting and fair play in a simple principal-agent experiment," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1999,82, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  5. Hellwig, Martin F. & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2002. "Discrete-time approximations of the Holmström-Milgrom brownian-motion model of intertemporal incentive provision," Munich Reprints in Economics 19425, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  6. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-56, November.
  7. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  8. 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.
  9. Martin Brown & Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr, 2004. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 747-780, 05.
  10. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5927, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  11. Charles Brown, 1990. "Firms' Choice of Method of Pay," NBER Working Papers 3065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Bengt Holmstrom & Paul R. Milgrom, 1985. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 742, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  14. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  15. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1987. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 1-33, February.
  16. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1989. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 447-80, March.
  17. Georg Kirchsteiger & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5899, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  18. David K. Levine, 1998. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 593-622, July.
  19. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3d04q5sm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  20. 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.
  21. Werner Güth & Wolfgang Klose & Manfred Königstein & Joachim Schwalbach, 1998. "An experimental study of a dynamic principal-agent relationship," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4-5), pages 327-341.
  22. Hellwig, Martin F. & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Discrete-Time Approximations of the Holmström-Milgrom Brownian-Motion Model of Intertemporal Incentive Provision," Discussion Papers in Economics 22, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  23. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  24. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  25. 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.
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