Anatomy of a Contract Change
55 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2014 Last revised: 28 Mar 2021
Date Written: January 2014
We study a contract change for tea pluckers on an Indian plantation, with a higher government-stipulated baseline wage. Incentive piece rates were lowered or kept unchanged. Yet, in the following month, output increased by 20–80%. This response contradicts the standard model and several variants, is only partly explicable by greater supervision, and appears to be “behavioral.” But in subsequent months, the increase is comprehensively reversed. Though not an unequivocal indictment of “behavioral” models, these findings suggest that non-standard responses may be ephemeral, and should ideally be tracked over an extended period of time.
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