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Institutions and Contract Enforcement

  • Falk, Armin
  • Huffman, David
  • Macleod, W. Bentley

We provide evidence on how two important types of institutions – dismissal barriers, and bonus pay – affect contract enforcement behavior in a market with incomplete contracts and repeated interactions. Dismissal barriers are shown to have a strong negative impact on worker performance, and market efficiency, by interfering with firms' use of firing threat as an incentive device. Dismissal barriers also distort the dynamics of worker effort levels over time, cause firms to rely more on the spot market for labor, and create a distribution of relationship lengths in the market that is more extreme, with more very short and more very long relationships. The introduction of a bonus pay option dramatically changes the market outcome. Firms are observed to substitute bonus pay for threat of firing as an incentive device, almost entirely offsetting the negative incentive and efficiency effects of dismissal barriers. Nevertheless, contract enforcement behavior remains fundamentally changed, because the option to pay bonuses causes firms to rely less on long-term relationships. Our results show that market outcomes are the result of a complex interplay between contract enforcement policies and the institutions in which they are embedded.

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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 361.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:361
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  2. Andrea Ichino & Regina T. Riphahn, 2001. "The Effect of Employment Protection on Worker Effort. A Comparison of Absenteeism During and After Probation," CESifo Working Paper Series 596, CESifo Group Munich.
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  4. David Kreps & Paul Milgrom & John Roberts & Bob Wilson, 2010. "Rational Cooperation in the Finitely Repeated Prisoners' Dilemma," Levine's Working Paper Archive 239, David K. Levine.
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  10. Fehr, Ernst & Klein, Alexander & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2005. "Fairness and Contract Design," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 67, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  11. 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.
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  13. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 336, CESifo Group Munich.
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  21. David H. Autor & John J. Donohue III & Stewart J. Schwab, 2003. "The Costs of Wrongful-Discharge Laws," NBER Working Papers 9425, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  23. Bowles, Samuel, 1985. "The Production Process in a Competitive Economy: Walrasian, Neo-Hobbesian, and Marxian Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 16-36, March.
  24. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  25. David H. Autor, 2003. "Outsourcing at Will: The Contribution of Unjust Dismissal Doctrine to the Growth of Employment Outsourcing," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-42, January.
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