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On the Relevance and Composition of Gifts within the Firm: Evidence from Field Experiments

  • Charles Bellemare
  • Bruce Shearer

We investigate the economic relevance and the composition of gifts within a firm where output is contractible. We develop a structural econometric model that identifies workers’ optimal reaction to monetary gifts received from their employer. We estimate the model using data from two separate field experiments, both conducted within a tree-planting firm. We use the estimated structural parameters to generalize beyond the experiment, simulating how workers would react to different gifts on the part of the firm, within different labour-market settings. We find that gifts have a role to play within this firm, increasing in importance when the workers’ outside alternatives deteriorate. Profit-maximizing gifts would increase profits within slack labour markets by up to 10% on average and by up to 17% for certain types of workers. These gifts represent significant increases in worker earnings; the average gift paid to workers attains 22% of average expected earnings in the absence of gifts. We find that gifts should be given by setting piece-rates above the market-clearing level rather than through fixed wages.

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Paper provided by CIRPEE in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 0932.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:lvl:lacicr:0932
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  1. MacLeod, W Bentley & Malcomson, James M, 1989. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 447-80, March.
  2. Harry J. Paarsch & Bruce S. Shearer, 2007. "The Response to Incentives and Contractual Efficiency: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Cahiers de recherche 0701, CIRPEE.
  3. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1995. "Assessing the Case for Social Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 85-110, Spring.
  4. Jeremy Lise & Shannon Seitz & Jeffrey Smith, 2015. "Evaluating search and matching models using experimental data," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 1-35, December.
  5. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:108:y:1993:i:2:p:437-59 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Fehr, Ernst & Gächter, Simon, 2001. "Do Incentive Contracts Crowd Out Voluntary Cooperation?," CEPR Discussion Papers 3017, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Kenneth I. Wolpin & Petra E. Todd, 2006. "Assessing the Impact of a School Subsidy Program in Mexico: Using a Social Experiment to Validate a Dynamic Behavioral Model of Child Schooling and Fertility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1384-1417, December.
  8. Fehr, Ernst & Falk, Armin, 2002. "Psychological Foundations of Incentives," IZA Discussion Papers 507, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Goette & Christian Zehnder, 2009. "A Behavioral Account of the Labor Market: The Role of Fairness Concerns," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 355-384, 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. Bellemare, Charles & Shearer, Bruce, 2009. "Gift giving and worker productivity: Evidence from a firm-level experiment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 233-244, September.
  12. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
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