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The Response to Incentives and Contractual Efficiency: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Author

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  • Harry J. Paarsch
  • Bruce S. Shearer

Abstract

We investigate the efficiency of piece-rate contracts using data from a field experiment, conducted within a tree-planting firm. During the experiment, the piece rate paid to planters was exogenously increased. Regression methods yield an estimate of the elasticity of output with respect to changes in the piece rate of 0.39. Regression methods are limited in their ability to predict the performance of alternative contracts. Therefore, we apply structural methods to interpret the experimental data. Our structural estimate of the elasticity is 0.37, very close to the regression estimate. Importantly, our structural model is identified without imposing profit maximization. This allows us to evaluate the optimality of the observed contract. We simply measure the profit distance between the observed contract and the profit-maximizing contract, evaluated at the structural parameter estimates. We estimate this distance to be negligible, suggesting that the observed contract closely approximates the expected-profit maximizing contract under asymmetric information. Under complete information, expected profits would increased by approximately fourteen percent, holding expected utility constant.

Suggested Citation

  • Harry J. Paarsch & Bruce S. Shearer, 2007. "The Response to Incentives and Contractual Efficiency: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Cahiers de recherche 0701, CIRPEE.
  • Handle: RePEc:lvl:lacicr:0701
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Bellemare, Charles & Shearer, Bruce, 2010. "Sorting, incentives and risk preferences: Evidence from a field experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(3), pages 345-348, September.
    2. Paarsch, Harry J & Shearer, Bruce, 2000. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages, and Incentive Effects: Statistical Evidence from Payroll Records," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(1), pages 59-92, February.
    3. Christensen, Bent Jesper & Kiefer, Nicholas M, 1994. "Measurement Error in the Prototypal Job-Search Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(4), pages 618-639, October.
    4. Paarsch, Harry J. & Shearer, Bruce S., 2009. "The response to incentives and contractual efficiency: Evidence from a field experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(5), pages 481-494, July.
    5. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1991. "Symposium on Organizations and Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 15-24, Spring.
    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. Craig, Ben & Pencavel, John, 1992. "The Behavior of Worker Cooperatives: The Plywood Companies of the Pacific Northwest," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1083-1105, December.
    8. Adam Copeland & Cyril Monnet, 2009. "The Welfare Effects of Incentive Schemes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 93-113.
    9. Christopher Ferrall & Bruce Shearer, 1999. "Incentives and Transactions Costs Within the Firm: Estimating an Agency Model Using Payroll Records," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 309-338.
    10. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
    11. Baker, George P, 1992. "Incentive Contracts and Performance Measurement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 598-614, June.
    12. Harry J. Paarsch & Bruce S. Shearer, 1999. "The Response of Worker Effort to Piece Rates: Evidence from the British Columbia Tree-Planting Industry," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(4), pages 643-667.
    13. Bruce Shearer, 2004. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages and Incentives: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 513-534.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Mirco Tonin & Michael Vlassopoulos, 2012. "Social Incentives Matter: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment," CEU Working Papers 2012_12, Department of Economics, Central European University, revised 20 Jul 2012.
    2. Fortin, Bernard & Jacquemet, Nicolas & Shearer, Bruce, 2010. "Labour Supply, Work Effort and Contract Choice: Theory and Evidence on Physicians," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2010-30, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 21 Oct 2010.
    3. Shchetinin, Oleg, 2009. "Contracting under Reciprocal Altruism," TSE Working Papers 09-078, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    4. Duncan S. Gilchrist & Michael Luca & Deepak Malhotra, 2016. "When 3 + 1 > 4: Gift Structure and Reciprocity in the Field," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(9), pages 2639-2650, September.
    5. Sen Wang & Tim Bogle & G. Cornelis van Kooten, 2012. "Forestry and the New Institutional Economics," Working Papers 2012-05, University of Victoria, Department of Economics, Resource Economics and Policy Analysis Research Group.
    6. Bose, Arup & Pal, Debashis & Sappington, David E.M., 2010. "On the design of piece-rate contracts," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(3), pages 330-332, June.
    7. Wang, Sen & Bogle, Tim & van Kooten, G. Cornelis, 2012. "Forestry and the New Institutional Economics," Working Papers 130818, University of Victoria, Resource Economics and Policy.
    8. Charles Bellemare & Bruce Shearer, 2011. "On The Relevance And Composition Of Gifts Within The Firm: Evidence From Field Experiments," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 52(3), pages 855-882, August.
    9. Paarsch, Harry J. & Shearer, Bruce S., 2009. "The response to incentives and contractual efficiency: Evidence from a field experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(5), pages 481-494, July.
    10. Owan, Hideo & Takahashi, Shingo & Tsuru, Tsuyoshi & Uehara, Katsuhito, 2014. "Finding Good Managers: An Econometric Case Study of a Large Japanese Auto Dealership," Discussion Paper Series 609, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    11. Cardella, Eric & Depew, Briggs, 2016. "Testing for the Ratchet Effect: Evidence from a Real-Effort Work Task," IZA Discussion Papers 9981, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. repec:eee:gamebe:v:107:y:2018:i:c:p:182-202 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Incentives; Contractual Efficiency; Field Experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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