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Tournaments versus Piece Rates under Limited Liability

  • Kräkel, Matthias

Lecture on the first SFB/TR 15 meeting, Gummersbach, July, 18 - 20, 2004The existing literature on the comparison of tournaments and piece rates as alternative incentive schemes has focused on the case of unlimited liability. However, in practice real workers’ wealth is typically restricted. Therefore, this paper compares both schemes under the assumption of limited liability. The results show that if the cost function is sufficiently convex, first-best effort will be more likely implemented under piece rates than under tournaments. Moreover, if first-best implementation is not achieved and workers earn positive rents, efforts and profits will be larger for piece rates than for tournaments given sufficiently convex costs. While tournaments offer a partial insurance due to their fixed prizes, piece rates may not work any longer if potential losses become prohibitively high. Finally, if risk is sufficiently high, piece rates will dominate tournaments despite the partial insurance effect of tournament compensation. Since effort costs and risk may depend on an individual worker’s characteristics, on the characteristics of his job and on his hierarchical position, these findings have important implications for the choice of incentive schemes and the allocation of workers in firms.

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Paper provided by Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich in its series Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems with number 15.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:15
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  1. Bognanno, Michael L, 2001. "Corporate Tournaments," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 290-315, April.
  2. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
  3. Pitchford, Rohan, 1998. "Moral hazard and limited liability: The real effects of contract bargaining," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 251-259, November.
  4. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Internal Economics of the Firm: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 881-919, November.
  5. Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Wage Policy of a Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 921-55, November.
  6. 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.
  7. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2003. "Inequity Aversion in Tournament," CIRANO Working Papers 2003s-18, CIRANO.
  8. Son Ku Kim, 1997. "Limited Liability and Bonus Contracts," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(4), pages 899-913, December.
  9. Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Green, Jerry & Stokey, Nancy, 1983. "A Comparison of Tournaments and Contracts," Scholarly Articles 3203644, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. Innes, Robert D., 1990. "Limited liability and incentive contracting with ex-ante action choices," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 45-67, October.
  12. Malcomson, James M, 1984. "Work Incentives, Hierarchy, and Internal Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 486-507, June.
  13. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Bognanno, Michael L, 1990. "Do Tournaments Have Incentive Effects?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1307-24, December.
  14. Eriksson, Tor, 1999. "Executive Compensation and Tournament Theory: Empirical Tests on Danish Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 262-80, April.
  15. Malcomson, James M, 1986. "Rank-Order Contracts for a Principal with Many Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(5), pages 807-17, October.
  16. Knoeber, Charles R & Thurman, Walter N, 1994. "Testing the Theory of Tournaments: An Empirical Analysis of Broiler Production," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(2), pages 155-79, April.
  17. Park, Eun-Soo, 1995. "Incentive Contracting under Limited Liability," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(3), pages 477-90, Fall.
  18. Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner, 1998. "The Last American Shoe Manufacturers: Changing the Method of Pay to Survive Foreign Competition," NBER Working Papers 6750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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