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Fairness, Incentives, and Contractual Choices

  • Ernst Fehr
  • Klaus M. Schmidt

This paper examines how the presence of a non-negligible fraction of reciprocally fair actors changes the provision of incentives through contracts. We provide experimental evidence that principals have a strong preference for less complete contracts although the standard self-interest model predicts that they should prefer the more complete contract. Our theoretical analysis shows that fairness concerns can explain this preference for less completeness. Fair principals keep their promises which provides strong pecuniary incentives through an incomplete contract. Selfish principals free-ride and exploit the agents. Counter-intuitively, selfish agents are induced to work by an incomplete contract while fair agents shirk.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 020.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:020
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  1. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1994. "Satisfaction and comparison income," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9408, CEPREMAP.
  2. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  4. Agell, J. & Lundborg, P., 1992. "Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Papers 1993-8, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. 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.
  7. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  8. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-54, May.
  9. Jacob K. Goeree & Charles A. Holt, . "Asymmetric Inequality Aversion and Noisy Behavior in Alternating-Offer Bargaining Games," Virginia Economics Online Papers 329, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  10. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
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