Peers and Motivation at Work: Evidence from a Firm Experiment in Malawi

50 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2020 Last revised: 18 Sep 2020

See all articles by Lasse Brune

Lasse Brune

Northwestern University - Buffett Institute for Global Studies

Eric T. Chyn

University of Virginia - Department of Economics

Jason Kerwin

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Applied Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 1, 2018

Abstract

This paper sheds light on workplace peer effects by analyzing an experiment at a tea estate in Malawi. We randomly allocated tea-harvesting workers to fields and find strong evidence of positive effects from working near higher-ability peers. Our analy­sis shows that increasing the average of co-worker ability by 10 percent increases own productivity by 0.3 percent. In contrast to previous studies, we rule out that produc­tion or compensation externalities drive our results because workers receive piece-rates and do not work in teams. Additional analysis provides no support for the hypothesis that learning or worker socialization drive the effects. Instead, we provide suggestive evidence that workers view co-workers as a source of "motivation." When given a choice to be re-assigned, the majority of workers want to work near fast (high-ability) co-workers. In open-ended survey responses, respondents state that being near faster peers provides motivation to work harder.

Keywords: peer effects, firm productivity, field experiment

JEL Classification: J24, J33, Mll, M54

Suggested Citation

Brune, Lasse and Chyn, Eric T. and Kerwin, Jason, Peers and Motivation at Work: Evidence from a Firm Experiment in Malawi (March 1, 2018). Global Poverty Research Lab Working Paper No. 20-106, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3654364 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3654364

Lasse Brune (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Buffett Institute for Global Studies ( email )

1902 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/brunelassef/

Eric T. Chyn

University of Virginia - Department of Economics ( email )

237 Monroe Hall
P.O. Box 400182
Charlottesville, VA 22904-418
United States

Jason Kerwin

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Applied Economics ( email )

MN
United States

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