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Fairness and Incentives in a Multi-Task Principal-Agent Model

Listed author(s):
  • Ernst Fehr
  • Klaus M. Schmidt

This paper reports on a two-task principal-agent experiment in which only one task is contractible. The principal can either offer a piece-rate contract or a (voluntary) bonus to the agent. Bonus contracts strongly outperform piece rate contracts. Many principals reward high efforts on both tasks with substantial bonuses. Agents anticipate this and provide high efforts on both tasks. In contrast, almost all agents with a piece rate contract focus on the first task and disregard the second. Principals understand this and predominantly offer bonus contracts. This behavior contradicts the self-interest theory but is consistent with theories of fairness.

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File URL: http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp_iew/iewwp191.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 191.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:191
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  1. Keser, Claudia & Willinger, Marc, 2000. "Principals' principles when agents' actions are hidden," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 163-185, January.
  2. Hellwig, Martin F. & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Discrete-Time Approximations of the Holmström-Milgrom Brownian-Motion Model of Intertemporal Incentive Provision," Discussion Papers in Economics 22, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Charness, Gary B & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0dc3k4m5, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  4. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gachter & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "Reciprocity as a Contract Enforcement Device," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000143, David K. Levine.
  5. W. Bentley MacLeod & Daniel Parent, 1998. "Job Characteristics, Wages and the Employment Contract," CIRANO Working Papers 98s-37, CIRANO.
  6. Ernst Fehr & Klaus Schmidt, 2004. "Contracts, Fairness and Incentives," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000148, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-459.
  8. Margin Dufwenberg & Georg Kirchsteiger, 2001. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000090, David K. Levine.
  9. David K. Levine, 1998. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiment," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 593-622, July.
  10. W. Güth & W. Klose & M. Königstein & J. Schwalbach, 1996. "An Experimental Study of a Dynamic Principal-Agent Relationship," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1996,95, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  11. Martin Brown & Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr, 2004. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 747-780, 05.
  12. Vital Anderhub & Simon Gaechter & Manfred Koenigstein, "undated". "Efficient Contracting and Fair Play in a Simple Principal-Agent Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 018, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  13. Werner Güth & Manfred Königstein & Judit Kovács & Enikõ Zala-Mezõ, 2001. "Fairness Within Firms: The Case Of One Principal And Multiple Agents," Schmalenbach Business Review (sbr), LMU Munich School of Management, vol. 53(2), pages 82-101, April.
  14. Bengt Holmstrom & Paul R. Milgrom, 1985. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 742, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  15. W. Bentley MacLeod & James M. Malcomson, 1986. "Implicit Contracts, Incentive Compatibility, and Involuntary Unemployment," Working Papers 585, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  16. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  17. George Baker & Robert Gibbons & Kevin J. Murphy, 1994. "Subjective Performance Measures in Optimal Incentive Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1125-1156.
  18. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1987. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 1-33, February.
  19. James Cox & Daniel Friedman & Steven Gjerstad, 2004. "A Tractable Model of Reciprocity and Fairness," Experimental 0406001, EconWPA.
  20. Gary E Bolton & Axel Ockenfels, 1997. "A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1889, David K. Levine.
  21. repec:sae:ilrrev:v:43:y:1990:i:3:p:165-182 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. Simon Gaechter & Armin Falk, "undated". "Reputation and Reciprocity: Consequences for the Labour Relation," IEW - Working Papers 019, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  23. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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