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Do Incentive Contracts Crowd out Voluntary Cooperation?

  • Ernst Fehr
  • Simon Gaechter

In this paper we provide experimental evidence indicating that incentive contracts may cause a strong crowding out of reciprocity-driven voluntary cooperation. This crowding out effect constitutes costs of incentive provision that have been largely neglected by economists. In our experiments the crowding out effect is so strong that the incentive contracts are less efficient than contracts without any incentives. Principals, nonetheless, prefer the incentive contracts because they allow them to appropriate a much larger share of the (smaller) total surplus and are, hence, more profitable for them.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 034.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:034
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  1. 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.
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  10. Gary Charness, 1996. "Attribution and reciprocity in a simulated labor market: An experimental investigation," Economics Working Papers 283, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 1997.
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  12. Fahr, Rene & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2000. "Fairness as a constraint on trust in reciprocity: earned property rights in a reciprocal exchange experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 275-282, March.
  13. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2000. "Pay Enough Or Don'T Pay At All," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 791-810, August.
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  17. Jacobsen, Eva & Abdolkarim Sadrieh, 1996. "Experimental Proof for the Motivational Importance of Reciprocity," Discussion Paper Serie B 386, University of Bonn, Germany.
  18. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 1999. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 106-134, February.
  19. Abbink, Klaus & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Renner, Elke, 2000. "The moonlighting game: An experimental study on reciprocity and retribution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 265-277, June.
  20. Jewitt, Ian, 1988. "Justifying the First-Order Approach to Principal-Agent Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1177-90, September.
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  24. Falk, Armin & Gachter, Simon & Kovacs, Judit, 1999. "Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives in a repeated game with incomplete contracts," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 251-284, June.
  25. Bruno S. Frey & Reto Jegen, 2000. "Motivation Crowding Theory: A Survey of Empirical Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 245, CESifo Group Munich.
  26. Frey, Bruno S & Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, 1997. "The Cost of Price Incentives: An Empirical Analysis of Motivation Crowding-Out," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 746-55, September.
  27. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  28. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  29. R. Lynn Hannan & John H. Kagel & Donald V. Moser, 2002. "Partial Gift Exchange in an Experimental Labor Market: Impact of Subject Population Differences, Productivity Differences, and Effort Requests on Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 923-951, October.
  30. Werner Güth & Wolfgang Klose & Manfred Königstein & Joachim Schwalbach, 1998. "An experimental study of a dynamic principal-agent relationship," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4-5), pages 327-341.
  31. Iris Bohnet & Bruno S. Frey & Steffen Huck, . "More Order with Less Law: On Contract Enforcement, Trust, and Crowding," IEW - Working Papers 052, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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