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Dynamic Incentive Contracts Under Parameter Uncertainty

  • Julien Prat
  • Boyan Jovanovic

We analyze a long-term contracting problem involving common uncertainty about a parameter capturing the productivity of the relationship, and featuring a hidden action for the agent. We develop an approach that works for any utility function when the parameter and noise are normally distributed and when the effort and noise affect output additively. We then analytically solve for the optimal contract when the agent has exponential utility. We find that the Pareto frontier shifts out as information about the agent's quality improves. In the standard spot-market setup, by contrast, when the parameter measures the agent's 'quality', the Pareto frontier shifts inwards with better information. Commitment is therefore more valuable when quality is known more precisely. Incentives then are easier to provide because the agent has less room to manipulate the beliefs of the principal. Moreover, in contrast to results under one-period commitment, wage volatility declines as experience accumulates.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16649.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
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Publication status: published as Jovanovic, Boyan & Prat, Julien, 2014. "Dynamic contracts when agent'’s quality is unknown," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 9(3), September.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16649
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  1. Yahel Giat & Steve T. Hackman & Ajay Subramanian, 2010. "Investment under Uncertainty, Heterogeneous Beliefs, and Agency Conflicts," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(4), pages 1360-1404, April.
  2. Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1992. "Optimal Incentive Contracts in the Presence of Career Concerns: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 468-505, June.
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  9. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-28, March.
  10. Arpad Abraham & Nicola Pavoni, 2008. "Efficient Allocations with Moral Hazard and Hidden Borrowing and Lending: A Recursive Formulation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(4), pages 781-803, October.
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  16. Marek Kapicka, 2013. "Efficient Allocations in Dynamic Private Information Economies with Persistent Shocks: A First-Order Approach," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 1027-1054.
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