Deferred Compensation and Gift Exchange: An Experimental Investigation into Multi-Period Labor Markets
30 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2004
Date Written: June 2004
This paper examines the relationship between firms' wage offers and workers' supply of effort using a three-period experiment. In equilibrium, firms will offer deferred compensation: first period productivity is positive and wages are zero, while third period productivity is zero and wages are positive. The experiment produces strong evidence that deferred compensation increases worker effort; in about 70 percent of cases subjects supplied the optimal effort given the wage offer, and there was a strong effort response to future-period wages. We also find some evidence of gift exchange; worker players increased the effort levels in response to above equilibrium wage offers by a human, but not in response to similar offers by a computer. Finally, we find that firm players who are initially hesitant to defer compensation learn over time that it is beneficial to do so.
Keywords: deferred compensation, pensions, experimental labor economics, personnel
JEL Classification: C91, J31, J41, M51, M52
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