Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

HERO Online Working Paper Series,
University of Oslo, Health Economics Research Programme

No 2008:1: Selfish Bakers, Caring Nurses? A Model of Work Motivation

Karine Nyborg () and Kjell Arne Brekke
Additional contact information
Karine Nyborg: Department of Economics, Postal: Department of Economics, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1095, Blindern, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway
Kjell Arne Brekke: Department of Economics

Abstract: Work contributes to people’s self-image in important ways. We propose a model in which individuals have a preference for being important to others. This leads to the following predictions: 1) In fully competitive markets with performance pay, behavior coincides with the standard model (bakers). 2) In jobs where e¤ort is not rewarded according to its social marginal value, behavior is more socially bene…cial than predicted by the standard model (nurses). 3) Even if unemployment bene…ts provide full income compensation, many workers’ utility strictly decreases when losing their job. 4) Similarly, many workers will prefer to work rather than to live o¤ welfare, even with full income compensation. 5) To keep shirkers out of the public sector, nurses’wages must be strictly lower than private sector income. At this wage level, however, the public sector will be too small. 6) It is possible to attract motivated workers to the public sector, without simultaneously attracting shirkers, through capital input improving nurses’opportunity to do a good job.

Keywords: Homo Oeconomicus; Work Motivation; Labour Market

JEL-codes: I00; J00

31 pages, June 2, 2009

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