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Fairness, Incentives and Contractual Incompleteness

  • Ernst Fehr
  • Alexander Klein
  • Klaus M. Schmidt

We show that concerns for fairness may have dramatic consequences for the optimal provision of incentives in a moral hazard context. Incentive contracts that are optimal when there are only selfish actors become inferior when some agents are concerned about fairness. Conversely, contracts that are doomed to fail when there are only selfish actors provide powerful incentives and become superior when there are also fair-minded players. These predictions are strongly supported by the results of a series of experiments. Furthermore, our results suggest that the existence of fair actors may be an important reason why many contracts are left deliberately incomplete.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 072.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:072
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  1. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory Of Fairness, Competition, And Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868, August.
  3. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  4. Ernst Fehr & Klaus Schmidt, 2000. "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity – Evidence and Economic Applications," CESifo Working Paper Series 403, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. repec:dgr:kubcen:199837 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Social Preferences: Some Simple Tests and a New Model," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1483, Econometric Society.
  7. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1998. "Foundations of incomplete contracts," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19354, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  9. Segal, Ilya, 1999. "Complexity and Renegotiation: A Foundation for Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 57-82, January.
  10. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  11. W. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1986. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Working Papers 585, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  12. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  13. Allen, F. & Gale, D., 1990. "Measurement Distortion And Missing Contingencies In Optimal Contracts," Weiss Center Working Papers 26-90, Wharton School - Weiss Center for International Financial Research.
  14. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1993. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," NBER Working Papers 4480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. B. Douglas Bernheim & Michael D. Whinston, 1997. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1787, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  16. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-82, March.
  17. Schmidt, Klaus M. & Schnitzer, Monika, 1995. "The interaction of explicit and implicit contracts," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 193-199, May.
  18. Aaron S. Edlin & Stefan Reichelstein, 1995. "Holdups, Standard Breach Remedies, and Optimal Investment," NBER Working Papers 5007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
  20. Donald B. Hausch & Yeon-Koo Che, 1999. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 125-147, March.
  21. 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.
  22. Georg Noldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1995. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation: A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(2), pages 163-179, Summer.
  23. 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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