Scoundrels or Stars? Theory and Evidence on the Quality of Workers in Online Labor Markets

The Accounting Review, Forthcoming

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 Last revised: 10 Mar 2016

See all articles by Anne M. Farrell

Anne M. Farrell

Miami University Farmer School of Business - Department of Accountancy

Jonathan H. Grenier

Miami University - Department of Accountancy

Justin Leiby

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date Written: March 9, 2016

Abstract

Online labor markets allow rapid recruitment of large numbers of workers for very low pay. Although online workers are often used as research participants, there is little evidence that they are motivated to make costly choices to forego wealth or leisure that are often central to addressing accounting research questions. Thus, we investigate the validity of using online workers as a proxy for non-experts when accounting research designs use more demanding tasks than these workers typically complete. Three experiments examine the costly choices of online workers relative to student research participants. We find that online workers are at least as willing as students to make costly choices, even at significantly lower wages. We also find that online workers are sensitive to performance-based wages, which are just as effective in inducing high effort as high fixed wages. We discuss implications of our results for conducting accounting research with online workers.

Keywords: online labor markets, Mechanical Turk, honesty, effort, performance-based pay

Suggested Citation

Farrell, Anne M. and Grenier, Jonathan H. and Leiby, Justin, Scoundrels or Stars? Theory and Evidence on the Quality of Workers in Online Labor Markets (March 9, 2016). The Accounting Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2424718 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2424718

Anne M. Farrell

Miami University Farmer School of Business - Department of Accountancy ( email )

800 East High Street
3094 Department of Accountancy / MSC 1002
Oxford, OH 45056
United States

Jonathan H. Grenier (Contact Author)

Miami University - Department of Accountancy ( email )

800 East High Street
Oxford, OH 45056
United States
513-529-2013 (Phone)

Justin Leiby

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

1206 S 6th St
Champaign, IL 61822
United States
2173007825 (Phone)

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