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On the economic architecture of the workplace: Repercussions of social comparisons among heterogeneous workers

  • Stark, Oded
  • Hyll, Walter

We analyze the impact on a firm’s profits and optimal wage rates, and on the distribution of workers’ earnings, when workers compare their earnings with those of co-workers. We consider a low-productivity worker who receives lower wage earnings than a high-productivity worker. When the low-productivity worker derives (dis)utility not only from his own effort but also from comparing his earnings with those of the high-productivity worker, his response to the sensing of relative deprivation is to increase the optimal level of effort. Consequently, the firm’s profits are higher, its wage rates remain unchanged, and the distribution of earnings is compressed.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 28910.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:28910
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  1. Paul Osterman, 2006. "Wage effects of high performance work organization in manufacturing," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 59(2), pages 187-204, January.
  2. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-283.
  3. Sherwin Rosen, 1985. "Prizes and Incentives in Elimination Tournaments," NBER Working Papers 1668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Schelling, Thomas C, 1969. "Models of Segregation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 488-93, May.
  5. Cabrales Goitia Antonio & Calvó-Armengol Antoni & Pavoni Nicola, 2007. "Social Preferences, Skill Segregation and Wage Dynamics," Working Papers 201053, Fundacion BBVA / BBVA Foundation.
  6. Stark, Oded & Micevska, Maja & Mycielski, Jerzy, 2009. "Relative poverty as a determinant of migration: Evidence from Poland," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 103(3), pages 119-122, June.
  7. Fang, Hanming & Moscarini, Giuseppe, 2005. "Morale hazard," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 749-777, May.
  8. Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2010. "Social Incentives in the Workplace," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(2), pages 417-458.
  10. Alexandre Mas & Enrico Moretti, 2006. "Peers at Work," NBER Working Papers 12508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Fan, C. Simon & Stark, Oded, 2007. "A social proximity explanation of the reluctance to assimilate," MPRA Paper 30940, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. BOSSERT, Walter & D’AMBROSIO, Conchita, 2004. "Reference Groups and Individual Deprivation," Cahiers de recherche 13-2004, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  13. John Knight & Lina Song, 2007. "Subjective Well-being and its Determinants in Rural China," Economics Series Working Papers 334, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  14. Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1979. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 321-324.
  15. Robert H. Frank, 1984. "Interdependent Preferences and the Competitive Wage Structure," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(4), pages 510-520, Winter.
  16. Stark, Oded, 1984. "Rural-to-Urban Migration in LDCs: A Relative Deprivation Approach," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(3), pages 475-86, April.
  17. George A. Akerlof, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-569.
  18. Frank, Robert H, 1984. "Are Workers Paid Their Marginal Products?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 549-71, September.
  19. Levine, David I., 1991. "Cohesiveness, productivity, and wage dispersion," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 237-255, March.
  20. Armin Falk & Andrea Ichino, 2004. "Clean Evidence on Peer Effects," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000439, UCLA Department of Economics.
  21. Stark, Oded & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1988. "Labour Migration as a Response to Relative Deprivation," MPRA Paper 21670, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  22. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1985. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 85-21, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  23. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles," Post-Print halshs-00754299, HAL.
  24. Barton H. Hamilton & Jack A. Nickerson & Hideo Owan, 2003. "Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 465-497, June.
  25. repec:oup:qjecon:v:93:y:1979:i:2:p:321-24 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. Amihai Glazer, 2008. "Optimal Contracts When a Worker Envies His Boss," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 120-137, May.
  27. repec:oup:qjecon:v:97:y:1982:i:4:p:543-69 is not listed on IDEAS
  28. Paul Osterman, 2006. "The Wage Effects of High Performance Work Organization in Manufacturing," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 59(2), pages 187-204, January.
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