The Sociology of Groups and the Economics of Incentives: Theory and Evidence on Compensation Systems

William E. Encinosa III, Martin Gaynor, James B. Rebitzer

NBER Working Paper No. 5953
Issued in March 1997
NBER Program(s):Health Care

This paper incorporates the sociological concept of group norms' into an economic analysis of pay systems. We use a behavioral microeconomic model and a unique survey of medical groups to examine the theoretical and empirical relationship between group norms and incentive pay. Our findings suggest that, at least for medical groups, norms are binding constraints in the choice of pay practices. While group norms matter, the patterns in the data suggest that they are not all that matters. Analysis of the preferences and activities of individual physicians indicate that factors highlighted by the economic theory of agency, notably income insurance and multi-task considerations, also shape pay policies. The conclusion we draw from these results is that the sociological concept of group norms augments rather than replaces more conventional economic analyses of pay practices.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5953

Published: Encinosa III, William E. & Gaynor, Martin & Rebitzer, James B., 2007. "The sociology of groups and the economics of incentives: Theory and evidence on compensation systems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 187-214, February. citation courtesy of

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