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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Publications by Migiwa Tanaka

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November 2013Testing the Theory of Multitasking: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment in Chinese Factories
with Fuhai Hong, Tanjim Hossain, John A. List: w19660
A well-recognized problem in the multitasking literature is that workers might substantially reduce their effort on tasks that produce unobservable outputs as they seek the salient rewards to observable outputs. Since the theory related to multitasking is decades ahead of the empirical evidence, the economic costs of standard incentive schemes under multitasking contexts remain largely unknown. This study provides empirical insights quantifying such effects using a field experiment in Chinese factories. Using more than 2200 data points across 126 workers, we find sharp evidence that workers do trade off the incented output (quantity) at the expense of the non-incented one (quality) as a result of a piece rate bonus scheme. Consistent with our theoretical model, treatment effects are muc...

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