NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Incentives and Worker Behavior: Some Evidence

Andrew Weiss

NBER Working Paper No. 2194
Issued in March 1987
NBER Program(s):   LS

This paper is concerned with three types of incentive programs. First, individual wage incentives that cause a worker's efforts to have a major effect on his pay. Second, group incentives in which the pay of an individual is determined by the output of a group of workers-a group can be as small as a four member work team or as large as the whole firm. Finally, seniority based payment schemes in which the pay of a worker rises rapidly with his tenure with the firm. We show that these payment schemes have the effects in practice that we would predict from optimizing behavior by workers. We find that group incentives tend to compress the productivity distribution of workers. This is because the relative performance of the most productive workers tends to fall, and the most and least productive workers have relatively high quit rates when workers are paid on group incentives. We also present evidence that suggests that the low quit rates in large Japanese firms may be due to steep wage-tenure profiles in those firms.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2194

Published: Cooperation, Incetntives and Risk Sharing; ed. Haig Nalbantian; Rowman and Littlefield publishers, 1987

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