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Wages and Reciprocity in the Workplace


  • Abigail Barr

    (Centre for the Study of African Economies)

  • Pieter Serneels

    (Centre for the Study of African Economies)


We explore the role of reciprocity in wage determination by combining experimental and survey data. The experiment is similar to Berg, Dickhaut and McCabe's (1995) and is conducted with Ghanaian manufacturing workers. The survey relates to the same sample workers and the firms within which they are mployed. We find a strong positive association between individual reciprocity and individual wages. However, the direction of causality is unclear. Various aspects of the distribution of the tendency to reciprocate within an employee's workforce are also associated with that employee's wage and, in this case, there are strong arguments for a causal link is from former to latter. In particular, the mean, median, and minimum levels of reciprocity have a positive effect on wages, while the spread in the distribution (standard deviation) has a strong significant negative effect. This suggests that homogenous behaviour, or convergence to a norm, is rewarded. The results underline theimportance of behavioural characteristics and firm culture for the operation of the labour market.

Suggested Citation

  • Abigail Barr & Pieter Serneels, 2004. "Wages and Reciprocity in the Workplace," Development and Comp Systems 0409064, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpdc:0409064
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 31

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Abigail Barr, 2004. "Rational and Biased Trust," Development and Comp Systems 0409068, EconWPA.
    2. Levitt, Steven D. & List, John A., 2009. "Field experiments in economics: The past, the present, and the future," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-18, January.
    3. Andreoni,J., 2005. "Trust, reciprocity, and contract enforcement : experiments on satisfaction guaranteed," Working papers 7, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    4. Matthias Benz & Stephan Meier, "undated". "Do People Behave in Experiments as in the Field? � Evidence from Donations," IEW - Working Papers 248, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    5. Jeffrey Carpenter & Erika Seki, 2011. "Do Social Preferences Increase Productivity? Field Experimental Evidence From Fishermen In Toyama Bay," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(2), pages 612-630, April.
    6. Jack, B. Kelsey, 2009. "Upstream-downstream transactions and watershed externalities: Experimental evidence from Kenya," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(6), pages 1813-1824, April.

    More about this item


    wages; reciprocity; field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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