PhD. candidate in Economics (expected May 2014)
University of Texas at Dallas

Fields of specialization: Labor Economics, Behavioral and Experimental Economics, Applied Econometrics, Applied Microeconomics.

Contact information
Email: ericka.scherenbergfarret@utdallas.edu
Address: 800 W Campbell Rd., Richardson, TX 75080-3021

My research interests are in the analysis of labor markets, behavioral economics, experimental economics and applied econometrics. I analyze the motivation of workers, and the effects of financial incentives on the effort exerted by workers, considering that some workers have social preferences, intrinsic motivation or are concerned with social norms. I draw from theories stating how workers with social preferences are inclined to exert more effort than their opportunistic counterparts when facing similar contract offers. However, the theoretical effect of the interaction between financial incentives and intrinsic motivation is less clear: for some subjects, incentives may increase effort, while for others with strong intrinsic motivation, incentives may have a negative effect on productivity as other motives are crowded out. 

My focus is to study the presence of different types of workers in contractual environments and observe behavioral responses to the incentives offered. In my job market paper I use experimental data from a three-person game that reproduces the interactions between a person who needs to employ a caregiver and another acting as the caregiver employee who provides services to a third, needy individual.  In some treatments, the employer receives a budget to cover the costs of care. I apply a finite mixture model regression technique to identify the presence of behavioral “types” in the sample; there is evidence of two types of participants for each role in the game. For the person hiring the caregiver the type called defined, transfers a constant amount across any treatment while the second type, called generous, keeps a constant amount and transfers the rest to their group members. In the case of the caregiver the type called compliant, transfers on average two thirds of the tokens received from the person that is hiring him while the second type, called kind, makes transfers greater than what she receives.  The technique also allows the estimation of separate measures of the response to incentives by each type.

In my second paper I elicit behavioral responses from subjects that face different types of contracts, consisting of a requested effort, a fixed payment, and an incentive payment (per unit effort).  Subjects choose effort levels for a variety of contracts made by two types of firms: one with a for-profit mission; and one with a social mission, such as donating part of their profits to non profit organizations. The hypothesis is that participants with different social preferences have different reactions to variations in the contractual parameters. We compare the different types of behavior across contract variations and then consider whether a subject that derives utility from working with a company with a socially responsible mission will exert more effort due to a mission alignment. Opportunistic participants are able to find the optimal choice of effort in any contractual variation but at least 50 percent of the participants have deviations from this optimal response that are consistent with the behavior of agents with social preferences. Those subjects facing the offer from the firm with a social mission choose higher effort levels than those participating in the for-profit variation; according to Besley and Ghatak (2005), keeping the incentive fixed, a mission-oriented subject exerts more effort than a subject without the mission alignment, this is consistent with our results. A third follow-on paper applies the mixture-model technique to these data.