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Institutions and Contract Enforcement

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  • Armin Falk
  • David Huffman
  • W. Bentley MacLeod

Abstract

We provide evidence on how two important types of institutions -- dismissal barriers, and bonus pay -- affect contract enforcement behavior in a market with incomplete contracts and repeated interactions. Dismissal barriers are shown to have a strong negative impact on worker performance, and market efficiency, by interfering with firms' use of firing threat as an incentive device. Dismissal barriers also distort the dynamics of worker effort levels over time, cause firms to rely more on the spot market for labor, and create a distribution of relationship lengths in the market that is more extreme, with more very short and more very long relationships. The introduction of a bonus pay option dramatically changes the market outcome. Firms are observed to substitute bonus pay for threat of firing as an incentive device, almost entirely offsetting the negative incentive and efficiency effects of dismissal barriers. Nevertheless, contract enforcement behavior remains fundamentally changed, because the option to pay bonuses causes firms to rely less on long-term relationships. Our results show that market outcomes are the result of a complex interplay between contract enforcement policies and the institutions in which they are embedded.

Suggested Citation

  • Armin Falk & David Huffman & W. Bentley MacLeod, 2008. "Institutions and Contract Enforcement," NBER Working Papers 13961, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13961
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    1. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-Gonzalez & Stephen Rassenti, 2013. "Firing Threats and Tenure: Incentive effects and impression management," Working Papers 13-15, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    2. Charness, Gary & Du, Ninghua & Yang, Chun-Lei & Yao, Lan, 2013. "Promises in contract design," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 194-208.
    3. Kopányi-Peuker, Anita & Offerman, Theo & Sloof, Randolph, 2018. "Team production benefits from a permanent fear of exclusion," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 125-149.
    4. Brown, Martin & Serra-Garcia, Marta, 2011. "The Threat of Exclusion and Relational Contracting," Discussion Papers in Economics 12287, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    5. Corgnet, Brice & Hernán-González, Roberto & Rassenti, Stephen, 2015. "Firing threats: Incentive effects and impression management," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 97-113.
    6. Elwyn Davies & Marcel Fafchamps, 2017. "When No Bad Deed Goes Punished: Relational Contracting in Ghana versus the UK," NBER Working Papers 23123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Brandts, Jordi & Corgnet, Brice & Hernán-González, Roberto & Ortiz, José Mª & Solà, Carles, 2021. "Watching or not watching? Access to information and the incentive effects of firing threats," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 189(C), pages 672-685.
    8. Brice Corgnet & Joaquín Gómez-Miñambres & Roberto Hernán-González, 2015. "Goal Setting and Monetary Incentives: When Large Stakes Are Not Enough," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(12), pages 2926-2944, December.
    9. Nguyen Thanh Liem & Nguyen Vinh Khuong & Nguyen Thi Canh, 2020. "Buyer–Supplier Contract Length and the Innovation of Supplier Firms," JOItmC, MDPI, vol. 6(3), pages 1-16, July.
    10. Englmaier, Florian & Segal, Carmit, 2016. "Morale, Relationships, and Wages: An Experimental Study," VfS Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145662, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    11. Johannes Abeler & Steffen Altmann & Sebastian Kube & Matthias Wibral, 2010. "Gift Exchange and Workers' Fairness Concerns: When Equality is Unfair," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(6), pages 1299-1324, December.
    12. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 3, pages 229-330, Elsevier.
    13. Dohmen, Thomas, 2014. "Behavioral labor economics: Advances and future directions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 71-85.
    14. Johannes Abeler & Steffen Altmann & Sebastian Kube & Matthias Wibral, 2010. "Gift Exchange and Workers' Fairness Concerns: When Equality is Unfair," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(6), pages 1299-1324, December.
    15. Martin Brown & Marta Serra-Garcia, 2017. "The Threat of Exclusion and Implicit Contracting," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 63(12), pages 4081-4100, December.
    16. Boosey, Luke & Goerg, Sebastian, 2020. "The timing of discretionary bonuses – effort, signals, and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 254-280.
    17. Sangheon Lee & Deirdre McCann & Nina Torm, 2008. "The World Bank's “Employing Workers” index: Findings and critiques – A review of recent evidence," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 147(4), pages 416-432, December.
    18. Cheikh Loucoubar & Richard Paul & Avner Bar-Hen & Augustin Huret & Adama Tall & Cheikh Sokhna & Jean-François Trape & Alioune Badara Ly & Joseph Faye & Abdoulaye Badiane & Gaoussou Diakhaby & Fatoumat, 2011. "An Exhaustive, Non-Euclidean, Non-Parametric Data Mining Tool for Unraveling the Complexity of Biological Systems – Novel Insights into Malaria," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 6(9), pages 1-16, September.
    19. Charness, Gary & Cobo-Reyes, Ramón & Jiménez, Natalia & Lacomba, Juan A. & Lagos, Francisco, 2017. "Job security and long-term investment: An experimental analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 195-214.
    20. Bernard, Mark & Fanning, Jack & Yuksel, Sevgi, 2018. "Finding cooperators: Sorting through repeated interaction," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 76-94.
    21. Maria Bigoni & Giancarlo Spagnolo & Paola Valbonesi, 2010. "Sticks and Carrots in Procurement," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0105, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    22. Revkin, Mara Redlich & Ahram, Ariel I., 2020. "Perspectives on the rebel social contract: Exit, voice, and loyalty in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 132(C).
    23. Bigoni Maria & Spagnolo Giancarlo & Valbonesi Paola, 2014. "Sticks and Carrots in Procurement: An Experimental Exploration," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 14(3), pages 1-44, July.
    24. Davies, Elwyn & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2021. "When no bad deed goes punished: Relational contracting in Ghana and the UK," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 191(C), pages 714-737.

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    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts

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