Unfair Pay and Health
27 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2014
Date Written: December 2014
This paper investigates physiological responses to perceptions of unfair pay. We use an integrated approach exploiting complementarities between controlled lab and representative field data. In a simple principal-agent experiment agents produce revenue by working on a tedious task. Principals decide how this revenue is allocated between themselves and their agents. Throughout the experiment we record agents' heart rate variability, which is an indicator of stress-related impaired cardiac autonomic control and has been shown to predict coronary heart diseases in the long-run. Using three measures of perceived unfairness our findings establish a link between unfair payment and heart rate variability. Building on these findings, we further test for potential adverse health effects of unfair pay using data from a large representative data set. The analysis includes cross-sectional and dynamic panel estimations. Complementary to our experimental findings we find a strong and highly significant negative association between health outcomes, in particular cardiovascular health, and the perception of unfair pay.
Keywords: Fairness, social preferences, inequality, heart rate variability, health, experiments, SOEP
JEL Classification: C91, D03, D63, I14
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