No Margin, No Mission? A Field Experiment on Incentives for Pro-Social Tasks

49 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2012

See all articles by Nava Ashraf

Nava Ashraf

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Oriana Bandiera

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

B. Kelsey Jack

Tufts University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2012

Abstract

A substantial body of research investigates the design of incentives in firms, yet less is known about incentives in organizations that hire individuals to perform tasks with positive social spillovers. We conduct a field experiment in which agents hired by a public health organization are randomly allocated to four groups. Agents in the control group receive a standard volunteer contract often offered for this type of task, whereas agents in the three treatment groups receive small financial rewards, large financial rewards, and non-financial rewards, respectively. The analysis yields three main findings. First, non-financial rewards are more effective at eliciting effort than either financial rewards or the volunteer contract. The effect of financial rewards, both large and small, is much smaller and not significantly different from zero. Second, non-financial rewards elicit effort both by leveraging intrinsic motivation for the cause and by facilitating social comparison among agents. Third, contrary to existing laboratory evidence, financial incentives do not crowd out intrinsic motivation in this setting.

Keywords: incentives, intrinsic motivation, non-monetary rewards

JEL Classification: D82, J33, M52, O15

Suggested Citation

Ashraf, Nava and Bandiera, Oriana and Jack, B. Kelsey, No Margin, No Mission? A Field Experiment on Incentives for Pro-Social Tasks (February 2012). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP8834, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2013825

Nava Ashraf (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

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617-495-5058 (Phone)
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Oriana Bandiera

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+44 20 7955 7519 (Phone)
+44 20 7055 6951 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

B. Kelsey Jack

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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