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The Negative Trade-off Between Risk and Incentives: Evidence from the American Whaling Industry

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  • Eric Hilt

Abstract

This paper analyzes the trade-off between risk and incentives in the share contracts of the American whaling industry. Using a newly-collected panel of 5,378 individuals who sailed on whaling voyages from 1855-68, the response of sailors' compensation to an increase in risk is estimated. The risks used to identify this response resulted from the commerce-raiding naval vessels of the Confederacy during the Civil War. As the Confederate cruisers sailed primarily in the Atlantic, and therefore posed far less of a threat to whaling voyages to other oceans, a quasi-experimental approach, focussing on the differences between Atlantic voyages compared to others, is implemented. The results support the existence of a negative trade-off between risk and incentives in the industry's contracts. Moreover, evidence is found of selection among less risk-averse sailors and merchants into riskier voyages during the war.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Hilt, 2006. "The Negative Trade-off Between Risk and Incentives: Evidence from the American Whaling Industry," NBER Working Papers 11960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11960
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Grund, Christian & Sliwka, Dirk, 2006. "Performance Pay and Risk Aversion," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 101, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    2. Glaser, Darrell J. & Rahman, Ahmed S., 2016. "Ex Tridenti Mercatus? Sea-power and maritime trade in the age of globalization," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 95-111.
    3. Kräkel, Matthias & Schöttner, Anja, 2016. "Optimal sales force compensation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PA), pages 179-195.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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