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Optimal Incentive Contracts In The Presence Of Career Concerns: Theory And Evidence

  • GIBBONS, R.
  • MURPHY, K.J.

This paper studies career concerns -- concerns about the effects of current performance on future compensation -- and describes how optimal incentive contracts are affected when career concerns are taken into account. Career concerns arise frequently: they occur whenever the market uses a worker's current output to update its belief about the worker's ability and competition then forces future wages (or wage contracts) to reflect these updated beliefs. Career concerns are stronger when a worker is further from retirement, because a longer prospective career increases the return to changing the market's belief. In the presence of career concerns, the optimal compensation contract optimizes total incentives -- the combination of the implicit incentives from career concerns and the explicit incentives from the compensation contract. Thus, the explicit incentives from the optimal compensation contract should be strongest when a worker is close to retirement. We find empirical support for this prediction in the relation between chief-executive compensation and stock-market performance.

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Paper provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 563.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: 1990
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mit:worpap:563
Contact details of provider: Postal: MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT), DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS, 50 MEMORIAL DRIVE CAMBRIDGE MASSACHUSETTS 02142 USA
Phone: (617) 253-3361
Fax: (617) 253-1330
Web page: http://econ-www.mit.edu/

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  1. Smith, Clifford Jr. & Warner, Jerold B., 1979. "On financial contracting : An analysis of bond covenants," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 117-161, June.
  2. Coughlan, Anne T. & Schmidt, Ronald M., 1985. "Executive compensation, management turnover, and firm performance : An empirical investigation," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1-3), pages 43-66, April.
  3. Lazear, Edward P, 1986. "Salaries and Piece Rates," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(3), pages 405-31, July.
  4. Baron, David P & Besanko, David, 1987. "Commitment and Fairness in a Dynamic Regulatory Relationship," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(3), pages 413-36, July.
  5. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1988. "The Dynamics of Incentive Contracts," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1153-75, September.
  6. Michael Waldman, 1983. "Job Assignments, Signalling nad Efficiency," UCLA Economics Working Papers 286, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Rosen, Sherwin, 1986. "Prizes and Incentives in Elimination Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 701-15, September.
  8. MacDonald, Glenn M, 1982. "A Market Equilibrium Theory of Job Assignment and Sequential Accumulation of Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1038-55, December.
  9. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1985. "Reputation and Hierarchy in Dynamic Models of Employment," Working Papers 628, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  10. Aron, Debra J, 1987. "Worker Reputation and Productivity Incentives," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(4), pages S87-106, October.
  11. Richard A. Lambert, 1983. "Long-Term Contracts and Moral Hazard," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 441-452, Autumn.
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