On Reputation: A Microfoundation of Contract Enforcement and Price Rigidity*

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  • *

     This article is part of the University Research Priority Programme on the ‘Foundations of Human Social Behaviour’ which is financed by the University of Zürich.

Abstract

We study the impact of reputational incentives in markets characterised by moral hazard problems. Social preferences have been shown to enhance contract enforcement in these markets, while at the same time generating considerable wage and price rigidity. Reputation powerfully amplifies the positive effects of social preferences on contract enforcement by increasing contract efficiency substantially. This effect is, however, associated with a considerable bilateralisation of market interactions, suggesting that it may aggravate price rigidities. Surprisingly, reputation in fact weakens the wage and price rigidities arising from social preferences. Thus, in markets characterised by moral hazard, reputational incentives unambiguously increase mutually beneficial exchanges, reduce rents, and render markets more responsive to supply and demand shocks.

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