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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. Allen, Franklin & Gale, Douglas, 1992. "Measurement Distortion and Missing Contingencies in Optimal Contracts," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 1-26, January.
  2. Schmidt, Klaus M. & Schnitzer, Monika, 1995. "The interaction of explicit and implicit contracts," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 193-199, May.
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  6. W. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1986. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Working Papers 585, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  7. Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
  8. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Social Preferences: Some Simple Tests and a New Model," General Economics and Teaching 0012002, EconWPA.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity - Evidence and Economic Applications," CEPR Discussion Papers 2703, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. 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.
  11. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 457, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-32, September.
  13. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  14. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-56, November.
  15. 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.
  16. Aghion, Philippe & Dewatripont, Mathias & Rey, Patrick, 1994. "Renegotiation Design with Unverifiable Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 257-82, March.
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  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. repec:att:wimass:9714 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  21. repec:dgr:kubcen:199837 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Segal, Ilya, 1999. "Complexity and Renegotiation: A Foundation for Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 57-82, January.
  23. 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.
  24. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
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