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Recursive Contracts, Firm Longevity, and Rat Races: Theory and Experimental Evidence

  • Peter Bardsley
  • Nisvan Erkal
  • Nikos Nikiforakis
  • Tom Wilkening

This paper investigates the relationship between firm longevity and rat races in an environment where long-lived firms are operated by overlapping generations of short-lived players. We first present a complete information model in which workers in the young generation are offered employment contracts designed by the firms' owners who belong to the old generation. When old, employed workers are granted ownnership rights as long as the firm continues to operate. We test the theoretical predictions of the model in a laboratory experiment. In line with our model's predictions, as firm longevity increases, the recursive nature of the contracts leads to a rat race characterized by low wages, high effort levels, and rent dissipation

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Paper provided by The University of Melbourne in its series Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number 1122.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision: 2011
Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:1122
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, The University of Melbourne, 4th Floor, FBE Building, Level 4, 111 Barry Street. Victoria, 3010, Australia
Phone: +61 3 8344 5355
Fax: +61 3 8344 6899
Web page: http://www.economics.unimelb.edu.au
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  1. Salant, David J., 1991. "A repeated game with finitely lived overlapping generations of players," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 244-259, May.
  2. Landers, Renee M & Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1996. "Rat Race Redux: Adverse Selection in the Determination of Work Hours in Law Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 329-48, June.
  3. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Internal Economics of the Firm: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 881-919, November.
  4. Apesteguia, Jose & Huck, Steffen & Oechssler, Jorg, 2007. "Imitation--theory and experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 136(1), pages 217-235, September.
  5. Steve Tadelis, 1997. "What's in a Name? Reputation as a Tradeable Asset," Working Papers 97033, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
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  7. Christopher Ferrall, 1996. "Promotions and Incentives in Partnerships: Evidence from Major U.S. Law Firms," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(4), pages 811-27, November.
  8. Lei, V. & Noussair, C. & Plott, C.R., 1998. "Non-Speculative Bubbles in Experimental Asset Markets: Lack of Common Knowledge of Rationality Vs. Actual Irrationality," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1120, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
  9. Ananish Chaudhuri & Andrew Schotter & Barry Sopher, 2009. "Talking Ourselves to Efficiency: Coordination in Inter-Generational Minimum Effort Games with Private, Almost Common and Common Knowledge of Advice," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(534), pages 91-122, 01.
  10. Roth, Alvin E. & Vesna Prasnikar & Masahiro Okuno-Fujiwara & Shmuel Zamir, 1991. "Bargaining and Market Behavior in Jerusalem, Ljubljana, Pittsburgh, and Tokyo: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1068-95, December.
  11. Fredrik Andersson, 2002. "Career Concerns, Contracts, and Effort Distortions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 42-58, January.
  12. Ando, Munetomo & Kobayashi, Hajime, 2008. "Intergenerational conflicts of interest and seniority systems in organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 757-767, March.
  13. Reshmaan N. Hussam & David Porter & Vernon L. Smith, 2008. "Thar She Blows: Can Bubbles Be Rekindled with Experienced Subjects?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 924-37, June.
  14. Alan Morrison & William J. Wilhelm, Jr., 2003. "Partnership Firms, Reputation and Human Capital," OFRC Working Papers Series 2003fe02, Oxford Financial Research Centre.
  15. Smith, Vernon L & Suchanek, Gerry L & Williams, Arlington W, 1988. "Bubbles, Crashes, and Endogenous Expectations in Experimental Spot Asset Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1119-51, September.
  16. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-55, November.
  17. Smith, Lones, 1992. "Folk theorems in overlapping generations games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 426-449, July.
  18. Cremer, Jacques, 1986. "Cooperation in Ongoing Organizations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(1), pages 33-49, February.
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