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Is There a 'Hidden Cost of Control' in Naturally-Occurring Markets? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

Author

Listed:
  • Craig E. Landry
  • Andreas Lange
  • John A. List
  • Michael K. Price
  • Nicholas G. Rupp

Abstract

Several recent laboratory experiments have shown that the use of explicit incentives--such as conditional rewards and punishment--entail considerable "hidden" costs. The costs are hidden in the sense that they escape our attention if our reasoning is based on the assumption that people are exclusively self-interested. This study represents a first attempt to explore whether, and to what extent, such considerations affect equilibrium outcomes in the field. Using data gathered from nearly 3000 households, we find little support for the negative consequences of control in naturally-occurring labor markets. In fact, even though we find evidence that workers are reciprocal, we find that worker effort is maximized when we use conditional--not unconditional--rewards to incent workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2011. "Is There a 'Hidden Cost of Control' in Naturally-Occurring Markets? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 17472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17472
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:feb:artefa:0093 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
    3. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 1997. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device: Experimental Evidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(4), pages 833-860, July.
    4. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782.
    5. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2008. "Anonymity, reciprocity, and conformity: Evidence from voluntary contributions to a national park in Costa Rica," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1047-1060, June.
    6. Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2007. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1774-1793, December.
    7. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 1999. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 106-134, February.
    8. Dirk Sliwka, 2007. "Trust as a Signal of a Social Norm and the Hidden Costs of Incentive Schemes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 999-1012, June.
    9. Craig Landry & Andreas Lange & John List & Michael Price & Nicholas Rupp, 2011. "The Hidden Benefits of Control: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00594, The Field Experiments Website.
    10. Bellemare, Charles & Shearer, Bruce, 2009. "Gift giving and worker productivity: Evidence from a firm-level experiment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 233-244, September.
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    12. Sebastian Kube & Michel Andre Marechal & Clemens Puppe, 2012. "The Currency of Reciprocity: Gift Exchange in the Workplace," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1644-1662, June.
    13. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2010. "Is a Donor in Hand Better Than Two in the Bush? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 958-983, June.
    14. Stephan Meier, 2007. "Do Subsidies Increase Charitable Giving in the Long Run? Matching Donations in a Field Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(6), pages 1203-1222, December.
    15. Uri Gneezy & John A List, 2006. "Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1365-1384, September.
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    18. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Catherine C. Eckel & David H. Herberich & Jonathan Meer, 2016. "It's Not the Thought that Counts: A Field Experiment on Gift Exchange and Giving at a Public University," NBER Working Papers 22867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Craig Landry & Andreas Lange & John List & Michael Price & Nicholas Rupp, 2011. "The Hidden Benefits of Control: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00594, The Field Experiments Website.
    3. Ockenfels, Axel & Sliwka, Dirk & Werner, Peter, 2015. "Timing of kindness – Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 79-87.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods

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