Retracting a Gift: How Does Employee Effort Respond to Wage Reductions?

Source: Darin Lee, Nicholas G. Rupp, Journal of Labor Economics, Volume 25, Number 4, October 2007
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Since the days of Henry Ford, employers have argued that higher pay induces employees to provide additional effort. While the converse is also thought to be true, there is little empirical evidence testing this hypothesis. Not only are significant company-wide pay cuts rarely observed in practice but measures of employee effort are typically difficult to quantify. This article examines the effort responses of U.S. commercial airline pilots following a recent series of large, permanent pay cuts. Using airline on-time performance as proxy for unobservable pilot effort, we find only limited support for the hypothesis that pay cuts lower employee effort.

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