On the Preferences of Principals and Agents

8 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010

See all articles by Marco Castillo

Marco Castillo

Department of Economics, Texas A&M University; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Ragan Petrie

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics; University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research

Maximo Torero

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Abstract

One of the reasons why market economies are able to thrive is that they exploit the willingness of entrepreneurs to take risks that laborers might prefer to avoid. Markets work because they remunerate good judgment and punish mistakes. Indeed, modern contract theory is based on the assumption that principals are less risk averse than agents. We investigate if the risk preferences of entrepreneurs are different from those of laborers by implementing experiments with a random sample of the population in a fast-growing, small-manufacturing, economic cluster. As assumed by theory, we find that entrepreneurs are more likely to take risks than hired managers. These results are robust to the inclusion of a series of controls. This lends support to the idea that risk preferences is an important determinant of selection into occupations. Finally, our lotteries are good predictors of financial decisions, thus giving support to the external validity of our risk measures and experimental methods.

JEL Classification: C93, D81, D86

Suggested Citation

Castillo, Marco and Petrie, Ragan and Torero, Maximo, On the Preferences of Principals and Agents. Economic Inquiry, Vol. 48, Issue 2, pp. 266-273, April 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1578514 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1465-7295.2009.00189.x

Marco Castillo

Department of Economics, Texas A&M University ( email )

Allen Building
4228 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3137
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Ragan Petrie

Texas A&M University - Department of Economics ( email )

4228 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-4228
United States

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research ( email )

Level 5, FBE Building, 111 Barry Street
Parkville, Victoria 3010
Australia

Maximo Torero

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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