Employee Stock Purchase Plans: Gift or Incentive?

Many large listed firms offer workers the opportunity to buy shares in the firm at discounted rates through employee stock purchase plans (ESPP).  The discounted rate creates a gift exchange, where the firm hopes that workers who accept the gift reciprocate with greater loyalty and effort.  But ESPPs diverge from standard gift exchange or efficiency wage models.

Do Salaries Improve Worker Performance?

We establish the effects of salaries on worker performance by exploiting a natural experiment in which some workers in a particular occupation (football referees) switch from short-term contracts to salaried contracts. Worker performance improves among those who move onto salaried contracts relative to those who do not. The finding is robust to the introduction of worker fixed effects indicating that it is not driven by better workers being awarded salary contracts. Nor is it sensitive to workers sorting into or out of the profession.