IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Contracts and the Market for Executives

  • Sherwin Rosen

The paper reviews empirical findings on executive compensation in light of marginal productivity and contract theories. The executive labor market performs three functions. First, control must be distributed and assigned among executives. The most talented executives are efficiently assigned to control positions in the largest firms when talent and the marginal product of control are complements. These gains or rents are partially captured in larger earnings. In fact, the elasticity of top executive pay lies within a tight band around .25 among industries, time periods, and countries where it has been estimated. Second, executive contracts must provide incentives for managers to act in the interests of shareholders. Potential loss of reputation, bonding and takeovers probably substitute for direct monetary incentives in this task. Nevertheless, the elasticity of top executive pay with respect to accounting rates of return lie near 1.0. The elasticity with respect to stock market returns is much smaller, though precisely estimated, near 0.1. Differences of opinion remain on whether the market provides enough incentives to align interests between ownership and control. Third, the market must identify new talent and reassign control over careers from older to younger generations. Competition among executives for top positions and the diminishing incentive effect of future rewards with age implies that compensation should increasingly tilt rewards to current performance over the course of a career. Available evidence supports this prediction.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3542.

in new window

Date of creation: Dec 1990
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Main Currents in Contract Economics, edited by Lars Werin and Hans Wijkander. Oxford: Blackwell Press, 1992.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3542
Note: LS
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3542. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.