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Reference Points and the Tradeoff between Risk and Incentives

Thomas Dohmen, Arjan Non () and Tom Stolp ()
Additional contact information
Arjan Non: Erasmus University Rotterdam (E building, Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Tom Stolp: Maastricht University (Tongersestraat 53, 6211 LM Maastricht, The Netherlands)

No 125, ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series from University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany

Abstract: We conduct laboratory experiments to investigate basic predictions of principal-agent theory about the choice of piece rate contracts in the presence of output risk, and provide novel insights that reference dependent preferences affect the tradeoff between risk and incentives. Subjects in our experiments choose their compensation for performing a real-effort task from a menu of linear piece rate and fixed payment combinations. As classical principal-agent models predict, more risk averse individuals choose lower piece rates. However, in contrast to those predictions, we find that low-productivity risk averse workers choose higher piece rates when the riskiness of the environment increases. We hypothesize that reference points affect piece rate choice in risky environments, such that individuals whose expected earnings would exceed (fall below) the reference point in a risk-free environment behave risk averse (seeking) in risky environments. In a second experiment, we exogenously manipulate reference points and confirm this hypothesis.

Keywords: Incentive; piece-rate; risk; reference point; laboratory experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D81 D91 M52 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 45 pages
Date: 2021-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-cta, nep-exp, nep-hrm, nep-lma and nep-upt
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (6)

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https://www.econtribute.de/RePEc/ajk/ajkdps/ECONtribute_125_2021.pdf First version, 2021 (application/pdf)

Related works:
Journal Article: Reference points and the tradeoff between risk and incentives (2021) Downloads
Working Paper: Reference Points and the Tradeoff Between Risk and Incentives (2021) Downloads
Working Paper: Reference Points and the Tradeoff between Risk and Incentives (2021) Downloads
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