Incentives in markets, firms, and governments

Daron Acemoglu, Michael Kremer, Atif Mian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


We construct a simple career concerns model where high-powered incentives can distort the composition of effort by inducing excessive signaling. We show that in the presence of this type of career concerns, markets typically fail to limit competitive pressures and cannot commit to the desirable low-powered incentives. Firms may be able to weaken incentives and improve efficiency by obscuring information about individual workers' contribution to output, and thus reducing their willingness to signal through a moral-hazard-in-teams reasoning. However, firms themselves have a commitment problem, since firm owners would like to provide high-powered incentives to their employees to increase profits. When firms cannot refrain from doing so, government provision may be useful as a credible commitment to low-powered incentives. Governments may be able to achieve this even when operated by a self-interested politician. Among other reasons, this may happen because of the government's ability to limit yardstick competition and reelection uncertainty. We discuss possible applications of our theory to pervasive government involvement in predominantly private goods such as education and management of pension funds. (JEL D23, L22, H10, H52).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-306
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Law, Economics, and Organization
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Incentives in markets, firms, and governments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this