1 A FINE IS A PRICE URI GNEEZY and ALDO RUSTICHINI* Abstract The deterrence hypothesis predicts that the introduction of a penalty that leaves everything else unchanged will reduce the occurrence of the behavior subject to the fine. We present the result of a field study in a group of day-care centers that contra- dicts this prediction. Parents used to arrive late to collect their children, forcing a teacher to stay after closing time. We introduced a monetary fine for late-coming parents. As a result, the number of late-coming parents increased significantly. After the fine was removed no reduction occurred. We argue that penalties are usu- ally introduced into an incomplete contract, social or private. They may change the information that agents have, and therefore the effect on behavior may be opposite of that expected. If this is true, the deterrence hypothesis loses its predictive strength, since the clause ‘‘everything else is left unchanged’’ might be hard to satisfy. I. Introduction uppose S you are the manager of a day-care center for young children. The center is scheduled to operate every day until four in the afternoon, when the parents are supposed to come and collect their children. Quite frequently, how- ever, parents arrive late, and force you to stay after working hours. You have considered a few alternatives in order to reduce the frequency of this behavior. A natural option is to introduce a fine: every time a parent comes late, she will have to pay a fine. Will that reduce the number of parents who come late? The prediction that it will seems extremely plausible. It is in fact also commonly made in two distinct fields of research: legal and criminal stud- ies, on the one hand, and psychological studies, on the other. The literature in psychology on this topic is very large, and it is textbook 1 2 a host of studies followed, After early formulations of the theory, material. but the conclusion is still controversial. * Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, and CentER for Economic Re- search, Tilburg University, The Netherlands, respectively. We thank David Easley, Patrick Francois, Edward Glaeser, David Levine, Ellen Nyhus, Tom Palfrey, Eric Posner, Luca Ri- ́ gotti, Jose Scheinkman, Peyton Young, Paul Webley, numerous seminar audiences, and an anonymous referee for very useful conversations and comments on the interpretation of the results in our study. 1 For a clear exposition on this topic, see A. Bandura, Principles of Behavior Modification (1969); and B. Schwartz, Psychology of Learning and Behavior (1984). 2 A first test of the effect of punishment was given by W. K. Estes, An Experimental Study of Punishment, 3 Psychol. Monographs 263 (1944). [ Journal of Legal Studies, vol. XXIX ( January 2000)] 2000 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0047-2530/2000/2901-0001$01.50 1
2 2 THE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES This large body of literature agrees, however, on a few general findings. When negative consequences are imposed on a behavior, they will produce a reduction of that particular response. When those negative consequences are removed, the behavior that has been discontinued will typically tend to reap- pear. The changes induced by the punishment may or may not be enduring changes, depending on several factors, such as the severity of the punishment or whether it is associated with a stimulus or only with the actual behavior. A punishment is most effective in reducing a behavior when it is certain and immediately follows that behavior. Finally, adaptation tends to develop to the punishment itself; thus, if the severity and other parameters of the punishment 3 are left unchanged, its effectiveness tends to decrease over time. In the field of legal studies the deterrence theory justifies punishment as deterring future crimes on the assumption that a higher expected punish- ment produces lower levels of criminal behavior. The deterrence theory can be phrased as an empirical hypothesis. One can test whether punishments that are more severe, swift, and certain produce a decrease in the level of 4 It is important to recall that economic analysis of the effect of a crime. punishment on behavior is not direct and requires, instead, a complete spec- ification of market forces. The equilibrium level of crime is set by the inter- section of supply and demand curves, and the effects of punishment are de- termined in the general equilibrium. A change in one of the parameters, such as the level of punishment, changes the decision problem of the single agent (and this fact would tend to reduce her preferred level of crime). This change, however, also changes the problem of the other agents, and their reactions, and therefore affects again the problem of the single decision maker. The overall result might not be the reduction that one may have an- 3 A direct comparison of the results of this evidence with our particular experiment would be misleading. The literature presenting this evidence deals with behavior modification as a long- lasting effect. In addition, the effect is rarely considered as mediated by foresight (an exception is the work of Bandura, note 1, and in general the social learning theorists). supra 4 The literature presenting the deterrence argument goes back at least to C. Beccaria, An Essay on Crimes and Punishment (H. Paolucci trans. 1774); J. Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789); and W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, A Facsimile Edition of the First Edition of 1765–1769 (1765–69); see, in particular, Vol. 4, commentary 11–12). This hypothesis has received new strength from law and economics, some fundamental papers being G. B. Becker, Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach, 76 J. Pol. Econ. 169 (1968); G. J. Stigler, The Optimum Enforcement of Laws, 78 J. Pol. Econ. 526 (1970); J. R. Harris, On the Economics of Law and Order, 78 J. Pol. Econ. 165 (1970); and several works by Isaac Ehrlich: see I. Ehrlich, Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation, 81 J. Pol. Econ. 521 (1973); and I. Ehrlich, The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Question of Life and Death, 65 Am. Econ. Rev. 397 (1975); I. Ehrlich & R. Mark, Fear of Deterrence: A Critical Evaluation of the ‘‘Report of the Panel on Research on Deterrent and Incapacitation Ef- fects,’’ 6 J. Legal Stud. 293 (1977). The literature elaborating on these initial contributions is very large; see a recent review by I. Ehrlich, Crime, Punishment, and the Market for Of- fences, 10 J. Econ. Persp. 43 (1996).
3 FINES 3 ticipated by considering the problem of the agent in isolation. For example, this reduction might be smaller because some agents have withdrawn from criminal activity, thus increasing the returns of crime. Once these caveats are kept in mind, it is fair to say that the deterrence hypothesis is based on the assumption that the introduction of a penalty will produce a reduction of the behavior. In the field study we present in this paper, the prediction was violated: the observed relationship was found to be significant and positive. Specifi- cally, we studied the effect of fines on the frequency with which parents arrive late to collect their child from day-care centers. Our data include ob- servations of 10 day-care centers over a period of 20 weeks. In the first 4 weeks we simply observed the number of parents who arrived late. At the beginning of the fifth week we introduced a fine in six of the 10 day-care centers. The fine was imposed on parents who arrived more than 10 minutes late. No fine was introduced in the four other day-care centers, which served as a control group. After the introduction of the fine we observed a steady increase in the number of parents coming late. At the end of an adjustment period that lasted 2–3 weeks, the number of late-coming parents remained stable, at a rate higher than in the no-fine period. The fine was removed at the beginning of the seventeenth week. In the following 4 weeks the number of parents coming late remained at the same high level of the previous period, higher than in the initial 4 weeks. We do not claim that the effect is similar every time a fine is introduced. It is easy to speculate that no parent would come late if a very large fine were involved. What this field study teaches us, we believe, is that the intro- duction of the fine changes the perception of people regarding the environ- ment in which they operate. In particular, we argue that the environment in our study, as in many real-life situations, is defined by an incomplete con- tract. In the specific situation under examination, the exact consequence of coming late was not specified in the contract between the parents and the day-care center. For instance, there was no precise set of clauses specifying the consequence of one, two, or several occurrences of a delayed pickup of a child. Parents could form any belief on the matter, as they probably did, and act accordingly. The introduction of the fine into this incomplete con- tract, however, reshapes the parents’ perception of this environment. II. The Study A. Background There are two types of day-care centers in Israel: private and public. This study was conducted in 10 private day-care centers in the city of Haifa from
4 4 THE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES January to June 1998. All of these centers are located in the same part of town, and there is no important difference among them. In the day-care cen- ters the owner is also the principal. Two years of studies are required to be a certified principal. In all of the day-care centers that we studied, the man- ager remained in the facility until one in the afternoon. After that time the assistants were in charge. During the day children are organized into groups according to age, from 1 to 4 years old. Each day-care center is allowed to hold a maximum of 35 children. In some exceptional cases a few addi- tional children are allowed. The fee for each child is NIS 1,400 per month. (The NIS is the New Israeli Shekel.) At the time of the study, a U.S. dollar was worth approximately NIS 3.68, so the fee was about $380 at that time. The contract signed at the beginning of the year states that the day-care center operates between 0730 and 1600. There is no mention of what hap- pens if parents come late to pick up their children. In particular, before the beginning of the study, there was no fine for coming late. When parents did not come on time, one of the teachers had to wait with the children con- cerned. Teachers would rotate in this task, which is considered part of the job of a teacher, a fact that is clearly explained when a teacher is hired. Parents rarely came after 1630. B. The Study At the beginning of the study, research assistants went to the day-care centers to ask the principals to participate in an academic study about the influence of fines. Each manager was promised that at the end of the study 5 would receive coupons with a value of NIS 500 for buying books. The she principals were given a telephone number at the university that they could call to verify the details. None of the principals actually did so. 6 In the first 4 weeks we The overall period of the study was 20 weeks. simply recorded the number of parents who arrived late each week. At the beginning of the fifth week, we introduced a fine in six of the 10 day-care 7 which had been selected randomly. The announcement of the fine centers, was made with a note posted on the bulletin board of the day-care center. Parents tend to look at this board every day, since important announcements are posted there. The announcement specified that the fine would be NIS 5 All the managers in the study (and, as far as we know, in Israel) are women. 6 Actually it was 21 weeks, with a break of 1 week because of a holiday after week 14. Moreover, week 11 included only 4 days of study (Sunday–Wednesday), so the number of late-coming parents that week was calculated as 5/4 times the actual number. 7 In the beginning, there were 12 day-care centers, but the recordings from two day-care centers were incomplete, and we decided not to report their results.
5 FINES 5 10 for a delay of 10 minutes or more. (A translation of the announcement from Hebrew is presented in Appendix A.) The fine was per child; thus, if parents had two children in the center and they came late, they had to pay NIS 20. Payment was made to the principal of the day-care center at the end of the month. Since monthly payments are made to the owner during the year, the fines were added to those amounts. The money was paid to the owner, rather then to the teacher who was staying late (and did not get any additional money). The teachers were informed of the fine but not of the study. Registering the names of parents who came late was a common practice in any case. At the beginning of the seventeenth week, the fine was removed with no explanation. Notice of the cancellation was posted on the board. If parents asked why the fines were removed, the principals were instructed to reply that the fine had been a trial for a limited time and that the results of this trial were now being evaluated. C. A Few Comparisons A comparison with other fines in Israel may give an idea of the size of the penalty that was introduced. A fine of NIS 10 is relatively small but not insignificant. In comparison, the fine for illegal parking is NIS 75; the fine for driving through a red light is NIS 1,000 plus penalties; the fine for not collecting the droppings of a dog is NIS 360. For many of these violations, however, detection and enforcement are low or, as in the case of dog dirt, 8 A baby-sitter earns between NIS 15 and NIS 20 nonexistent in practice. per hour. The average gross salary per month in Israel at the time of the study was NIS 5,595. III. Results The raw data are presented in Table 1. The first column reports the num- ber of the day-care centers in our study (the first six are the test group, where a fine was introduced, and the last four are the control group). The second column reports the total number of children in the center. The other columns report the number of times per week that parents came late (each occurrence of a delay is a separate item). For example, in week 4 day-care center number 3 had nine cases of late-arriving parents. As a first indicator of the effect of the fine, the average number of parents 8 On the specific topic of fines for failing to collect dog droppings, see P. Webley et al., Why Do Some Owners Allow Their Dogs to Foul the Pavement? The Social Psychology of a Minor Infraction (unpublished manuscript, Univ. Exeter, Dep’t Psychology 1998).
6 13 28 13 8 15 29 9 35 11 5 12 26 8 17 31 14 17 26 9 11 29 9 13 29 12 32 12 7 17 24 Week 10 13 10 15 14 35 15 28 15 6 15 27 TABLE 1 9 11 10 10 15 10 12 18 13 9 13 14 9 13 12 587559121419171413101514166121713 8989351518161420182522271920232322 34933595276694923835 887689912131315131416141516131517 71012641378512356137471046 6 7 3 5 21114 9161210141416121714101415 1234567891011121314151617181920 15 12 13 10 314 9 624 822221925182322241715232518 Number of Late-Coming Parents per Week according to Day-Care Centers 32 37 34 28 35 35 33 35 34 34 No. of Children —The columns under ‘‘week’’ report the number of parents who came late. 3 8 7 1 6 5 4 9 2 10 Note. Control group: Test group: Center
7 FINES 7 Figure 1.—Average number of late-coming parents, per week Figure 2.—Median value of delay for the test (dark line) and the control (light line) groups. The diamonds and the crosses indicate the extreme values for the test and the control groups, respectively. from the first six day-care centers (those with the fine) who came late per week was compared with the corresponding average from the four centers of the control group. Figure 1 indicates the rather dramatic impact of the fine. To strengthen this observation, the medians of the two groups as well as the extreme values (minimum and maximum) of delay were compared (see Figure 2). In the test group the number of occurrences of delay increased steadily in the first 3–4 weeks after the introduction of the fine. The rate finally set- tled, at a level that was higher, and almost twice as large as the initial one.
8 8 THE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES TABLE 2 Average Number of Late-Coming Parents, according to Four Periods of the Study Weeks Weeks No. Weeks Weeks 1–4 5–8 5–16 Center of Children 17–20 37 7.25 9.5 12.5 15.25 1 35 5.25 9 12.2 13.25 2 35 3 10.25 16.8 22 8.5 34 15 19.1 20.25 4 9 33 11.75 20 5 29.5 24.6 6 28 6.25 10 13.1 12 7 35 8.75 8 7.2 6.75 8 34 10.5 10.9 9.25 13.25 34 5.5 5.5 4.75 9 4.75 32 13.25 12.25 10 12.25 13.1 Note. —The four periods of the study are as follows: before the fine (weeks 1–4), the first 4 weeks with the fine (weeks 5–8), the entire period with the fine (weeks 5–16), and the postfine period (weeks 17–2). The number of late arrivals seemed to remain stable after the fine was re- moved. In the control group no noticeable change took place after the fourth week, or in any other week. The average results are typical in each case: the data for each individual day-care center are reported in Table 2. The data report the average number of late-coming parents in the different day-care centers for each of the four stages of the study (the period with the fine, weeks 4–17, is divided into two stages). The same data are presented in Figure 3. The data were subject to formal statistical tests. The details are presented in Appendix B. The statistical tests show the following main facts. —The effect of introducing the fine was a significant increase in Fact 1. the number of late-coming parents. Fact 2. —Removing the fine did not affect the number of late-coming parents relative to the time of the fine. In particular, this number remained higher in the treatment group than in the control group. —There is no significant difference in the behavior of the test Fact 3. group and the control group in the initial 4 weeks, and there is no signifi- cant trend in the test group. IV. Interpretation of the Results Any model, or explanation, of these results has to provide two specific predictions: first, the fact that the rate of delay increases after the introduc- tion of a fine; second, the fact that this rate remains stable after the fine is removed.
9 A B C Figure 3.—Average number of late-coming parents for the 10 different day-care centers
10 10 THE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES The literature we reviewed in the introduction does not seem to provide a satisfactory explanation for both of these results. The controversial issue in that literature was whether punishment induces a reduction in the rele- vant behavior. The possibility of an increase in the behavior being punished was not even considered from either the theoretical or empirical point of view. One also has to consider that the models investigated in that literature have at least two features that differ from the environment of our study. First, the ‘‘crime’’ in our study is very mild and so are the punishments. Second, no uncertainty of punishment exists, since parents are sure they will be detected. The model we suggest is different from all of these models in one central assumption: we assume that the fine changes the agents’ perception of the social situation in which they are involved. We present below several possi- ble explanations of the data, mainly based on this assumption. Later we will discuss their relative merits. A. A Model of Differential Information and Incomplete Contracts In the initial period, parents who are not facing a fine can refer only to a partially specified contract to anticipate any consequences of their delay. As the initial weeks go by, parents acquire some additional information. For instance, they learn that the penalty is not severe for the mild level of late arrivals that is actually taking place. This is, of course, not enough to know whether the same would hold for worse behavior on their part. The implicit contract that the day-care center presents to parents might, for example, be perceived as follows: ‘‘We are going to take care of your children after closing time if you come late. We are not going to put a price schedule for this extra service, which will therefore be performed free of charge. Of course, any delay on your part is supposed to be an exceptional case, and you should come late only when strictly necessary. If you come late too often, we might do something about it.’’ In order to avoid this unspecified and uncertain but possibly more serious consequence, parents abstain from ‘‘too many’’ delays. The introduction of a fine makes the sure consequence of a delay a little worse, because parents now have to pay for each delay, but it also provides information. None of the explicit terms of the contract have been modified, nor have any of the relevant laws or even the widely accepted social norms: but parents have now reason to believe that a fine is the worst that can 9 happen. 9 For this explanation it is essential that the contract be incomplete. The alternative is that the contract was complete both before and after the introduction of the fine and that it simply
11 FINES 11 The behavior displayed in our study in the first 3–4 weeks after the fine has been introduced is consistent with this explanation. Parents slowly test the reaction of the day-care centers to higher levels of delays. As they see no other reaction over and above the fine, they continue to increase their delay. In the final period, after the fine is removed, they still have no reason to anticipate anything worse than a fine, and they do not reduce the rate of late arrivals. If anything, since even the fine is gone, they slightly increase it. B. A Simple Formal Model We now outline, in an informal way, an explicit game in order to capture the importance of the new information. The players in the game are the owner of a day-care center (a woman) and a finite group of parents (all men). There are two types of owners, who differ only in the type of action S, can use a severe action labeled they can take. The first type, labeled K. An example of a severe action is the exclusion (‘‘ icking out’’) of the child K M, can only raise from the day-care center. The other type, mild and labeled a fine Both types can also simply do nothing. The type of the owner is f. unknown to the parents, and each type occurs with equal probability. For the sake of simplicity, we assume that the game goes on for an infi- nite number of periods, and players discount their utility of every period. In every period, players play sequentially. First the owner chooses the ac- tion for that period. If she chooses K or f she has to pay a fixed implementa- tion cost for the first period. If she does nothing then she pays nothing. Then all of the parents simultaneously choose an amount of delay from an interval. The payoff for the owner is the fee, if there is one, for that period, minus the cost of the delay to her, all multiplied by the total delay. The payoff for each parent is the value, v, of the delay (arriving late to the day- care center has a value because, say, it gives the parent some flexibility) minus the fee, all multiplied by the amount of the delay. The value v is larger than the fine f. If the owner is of type S and she chooses K, then the game is over; the payoff to the owner is zero and the payoff to the parents is a large and negative number. 10 of this game. Parents choose an amount of delay, Here is an equilibrium changed from one situation to the other as a result of a unilateral decision by the owners of the day-care center. This argument, however, does not provide any way to explain why par- ents increase the number of delays when the price for doing so rises. 10 To be precise, a ‘‘sequential equilibrium,’’ as defined in D. Kreps & R. Wilson, Sequen- tial Equilibrium, 50 Econometrica 863 (1982). This equilibrium concept requires each player to take an optimal action, given the strategy of the others and his belief on the current posi- tion in the game tree. This belief is restricted by Bayesian updating whenever possible, and by a limiting process in the case of zero-probability events.
12 12 THE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES that is just enough to make both types of owner indifferent between d*, or K, depending on which type of either paying the cost of introducing f owner they are, and doing nothing. Parents keep doing this until the game goes on, unless some parent has chosen a higher delay than in the past, or the owner has charged a fine. In both cases they choose the maximum delay in every future period, even if the fine is later withdrawn. The owner does nothing in each period, as long as all parents choose the delay d* or less in the previous periods and the owner herself has chosen inaction. If any of the players, including her, has deviated in the previous f if she is of type M and periods, she chooses if she is of type S. Note K that this choice completely reveals her type. Parents revise their belief on the type of the owner using the available information. If the owner chooses inaction after a delay larger than they believe she is surely a mild type d*, 11 M. To see that this is an equilibrium, let us begin again with the parents. None of them finds it convenient to choose a delay larger than deterred d*, by the expected loss in the bad outcome K. Sticking to the equilibrium is better than any one-period gain. After any player’s deviation, including his own, the maximum delay, provided, of course, that the game is not over, is the best choice. In fact, the parents believe that the owner is mild, and the worst thing she can do is impose the fine she is already charging: but v f. . For the owner of both types, as long as the delay is less than or equal to d*, f or inaction is a good choice, since there is an implementation cost for Now, suppose that the owners observe a delay larger than d*. The mild K. M knows that the other type will choose the hard line K; she type of owner cannot take that action, and parents will recognize that she is mild. So they will afterward choose a large delay, and she might as well introduce the fine as partial compensation of the cost. The severe type, S, knows that if she chooses inaction parents will believe she is mild, and will increase their K. delay, so her best choice is to cut the losses and do This equilibrium yields three predictions: 1. In the initial period there is a low level of late arrivals. 2. If off the equilibrium path the owner charges a fine, then parents believe she is mild and increase the number of delays. 3. If later the fine is removed, parents still believe the owner is mild and they do not change their behavior. 11 This is a crucial point. The sequential equilibrium concept requires this belief to be, in a limited sense, a rational belief: even if the probability of the event d . d* is zero at this equilibrium. And it is going to be, if the probability that the mild type chooses inaction after a large delay is infinitely larger than the same probability for the type S.
13 FINES 13 These predictions perfectly match our data. In our study, however, the introduction of the fine off the equilibrium path was not decided by the owner, but by us. C. Multiple Equilibria The model we presented ignores an aspect that might be important. The cost that a parent is inflicting on the owner by coming late on a specific day depends very much on how many parents are coming late on the same day. The increase in the cost is almost zero if the parent is not the only one. So there may be multiple equilibria in the game. In one of the equilibria many parents are coming late, and so every single parent might as well come late too. In the other equilibrium, no one or very few of the parents are coming late, and since the cost a parent is inflicting on the owner is higher, he might decide to be on time. The introduction of the fee may have shifted the game from the second to the first equilibrium, which also ex- plains the behavior in the last period. D. Social Norms The explanation we just gave is based on the assumption of perfectly ra- tional and perfectly selfish individuals (both parents and owners). A com- pletely different interpretation based on the concept of social norm is possi- 12 Unfortunately, the theory of social norms is less developed than game ble. theory, so our reasoning will have to be more informal. The introduction of the fine may have changed the perception of the two relevant acts: the parents coming late and the teachers taking care of the children after closing time. Parents may have interpreted the action of the teachers in the first period as a generous, nonmarket activity. They may have thought: ‘‘The contract with the day-care center only covers the period 12 The concept of social norm is at the core of sociological theory. The literature on the theme is large and growing. We are using here the formulation given in J. Coleman, Founda- tions of Social Theory (1990), in particular, chs. 10 and 11. In Coleman’s view, ‘‘a norm concerning a specific action exists when the socially defined right to control the action is held not by the actor but by the others.’’ The authority of the others ‘‘is not voluntarily vested in them, either unilaterally or as a part of an exchange, but is created by the social consen- id. at 293). Finally, a social norm is enforced by an external sanctioning system or, if sus’’ ( the norm is internalized, by an internal sanctioning system ( id. ). One should also mention E. Ullmann-Margalit, The Emergence of Norms (1977). For an application to law, see C. R. Sunstein, Social Norm and Social Roles (Coase Lecture Series, Univ. Chicago Law Sch. 1995); and Social Norms, Social Meaning, and the Economic Analysis of Law, 27 J. Legal Stud. (1998); see, in particular, Laurence Lessig, The New Chicago School, 27 J. Legal Stud. 661 (1998).
14 14 THE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES until four in the afternoon. After that time, the teacher is just a nice and generous person. I should not take advantage of her patience.’’ The introduction of the fine changes the perception into the following: ‘‘The teacher is taking care of the child in much the same way as she did earlier in the day. In fact this activity has a price (which is called a ‘fine’). Therefore, I can buy this service as much as needed.’’ Parents feel justified in their behavior by a social norm that states, ap- proximately: ‘‘When help is offered for no compensation in a moment of need, accept it with restraint. When a service is offered for a price, buy as much as you find convenient.’’ This social norm by itself is not sufficient to explain the observed behavior. After all, the payment of NIS 10 was la- beled a ‘‘fine,’’ and the service was being offered at a very unusual, nonlin- ear price (flat zero fee for less than 10 minutes, and flat NIS 10 fee for more). So an additional norm seems to be needed: ‘‘A fine is a price.’’ The two labels of the payment as price or fine are equivalent. With the two social norms stated so far, the behavior in the first and sec- ond period is explained. No guilt or shame (depending on the degree of internalization of the social norm) can be attached to the act of buying a commodity at will. The behavior in the third period, however, is still difficult to explain. Now the first social norm would predict a low level of delay. We may think that a period of 4 weeks is not sufficient to bring the behavior back to the appropriate level. But considering that 2 or 3 weeks had been enough to double the level of delays after the introduction of the fine, we should esti- mate that the learning rate of the parents is too fast to justify so much in- ertia. Perhaps a third social norm is needed: ‘‘Once a commodity, always a commodity.’’ This norm and second clause of the first norm explain the behavior in the final period: a commodity at zero price is bought in large quantities. Overall, three norms seem necessary to explain three facts. This may not look optimal from a methodological point of view, but the real test of this explanation is in an independent verification of the fact that these norms are indeed active. The results of a related experiment that we present next may give some support to it. E. No Reward and Zero Reward 13 we study the effect of rewards on perfor- In a different experiment mance. Subjects in four different groups were paid a flat fee of NIS 60 for 13 The design and results of this experiment are reported in detail in U. Gneezy & A. Rus- tichini, Pay Enough, or Don’t Pay at All (CentER Discussion Paper, Tilburg Univ. 1998).
15 FINES 15 participation. We then asked the subjects to solve a set of 50 questions from an IQ test. To subjects in the first group we promised in addition NIS 0.10 for each question answered correctly; to a second group, NIS 1; and to a third group, NIS 3. Finally, to a fourth group we did not mention money. The first group had the worst performance, even worse than the last group, to which no compensation was offered. The conclusion seems to be that the absence of a price is not just the limit of very low prices. Mentioning a payment is enough to change the perception of the contract: from a service, which is due from them as subjects in the experiment, to a market ex- change. In a similar manner, in the day-care study a fine is enough to change the perception of the obligation to arrive on time. V. Conclusions: Incomplete Contracts and Incentives The evidence presented indicates that in our group of day-care centers the introduction of a fine increased the behavior that was fined and that the new higher level was not reduced when the fine was removed. These are the facts, and we have to explain them. We have presented two possible interpretations, and we have to conclude for the moment that on the basis of the data and the theory available we cannot refute either of the two. A satisfactory answer will be interesting, however, because these facts are probably more than a curious finding. It is true that a ‘‘large enough’’ fee would eventually reduce the behav- ior. For instance, many day-care centers in the United States clearly an- nounce a fee for coming late at the start of the year, and this fee is large and proportional to the length of the delay. The resulting penalty is more severe for the average delay than the nonlinear fine we introduced in our study, even after adjusting for difference in prices and incomes in the two countries. Casual observation shows that there are few delays, but we have not examined if the average delay is different from the one in our sample. Comparing the two systems would be an interesting research project. The study we presented shows, we think, something different, which we may summarize as follows. Fines, as well as rewards, are decided in a larger context, which for convenience we may define as a game. Many of the games we face in real life are not completely or precisely defined. This is the case even when their description is reasonably accurate, as is, after all, a contract for child care in a private day-care center. People facing this game do not come to it simply with their preferences and beliefs; they also bring to it a perception of the strategic situation they are facing. The con- tract that is presented to them and any modification that is made later may change this perception. The evidence presented here suggests that introduc- ing a fine may indeed change the perception of the game and of the equilib-
16 16 THE JOURNAL OF LEGAL STUDIES rium. This change may be a simple acquisition of information (as it was in the simple model we have proposed above), or it may derive from a more dramatic shift of perception, as it is in the norm we postulated: ‘‘Once a commodity, always a commodity.’’ In both cases, the effect of a change in a clause of the contract may produce effects different from what might be expected from the assumption that ‘‘everything else is left unchanged.’’ We believe this is important, because there is no reason to believe that this effect is limited to minor faults, such as a delay in the time of picking up one’s child. For instance, the announcement of a government that tax evasions are going to be more severely pursued may be interpreted in dif- ferent ways, and have a different effect, than the anticipated increased com- pliance. APPENDIX A Text of the Announcement Introducing the Fine Announcement: Fine for Coming Late As you all know, the official closing time of the day-care center is 1600 every day. Since some parents have been coming late, we (with the approval of the ‘‘Au- thority for Private Day-Care Centers in Israel’’) have decided to impose a fine on parents who come late to pick up their children. As of next Sunday a fine of NIS 10 will be charged every time a child is collected after 1610. This fine will be calculated monthly, and it is to be paid together with the regular monthly payment. Sincerely, The manager of the day-care center APPENDIX B Statistical Analysis of the Data The first statistical test was a baseline comparison of the two groups: that with the fine (‘‘treatment’’) and that without the fine (‘‘control’’) in the first 4 weeks. An ANOVA model was used, with the arcsine of square-root transformation of the daily percentage of parents coming late to each day-care center. Day care nested within a group is considered a random effect. The interaction between week number and group was also tested. The results of this test are as follows: 1. No significant baseline difference exists between the treatment group and the p (1, 8) 5 control group: F 5 .44. That is, the number of late-coming parents .65, in each group before the introduction of the fine (weeks 1–4) is not statistically different. 2. There is a significant effect for day care within a group: F (8, 24) 5 5.95, p .0003. That is, the individual day-care centers within a group are statistically 5 different from one another. 3. There is no significant effect for week: F .57; and for the 5 .68, p 5 (3, 24)
17 FINES 17 F (3, 24) .78, p 5 .52. That is, no trend or interaction between week and group: 5 systematic difference was found between weeks. Next, the time effect within the control group only was considered. The hypothe- sis tested was this: the increase in the number of parents coming late is simply a time trend, independent of the fact of the introduction of a fine. A time trend may exist in the control group if, for instance, parents acquire over time more familiarity with the teachers of the center and so feel more justified in stretching the rules a little. The results of this test follow: (3, 57) 5 33.82, p 5 .0001. That 1. There is a significant effect for day care: F is, the individual day-care centers are again found to behave differently. F 5 1.04, p 5 .44. In other (19, 57) 2. There is no significant effect for week: words, there is no statistically significant difference between weeks, and hence no trend in the data. The effect of the fine on the number of late-coming parents was tested using an ANOVA model with the arcsine of square-root transformation of the daily percent- age of parents arriving late at each day-care center. Day care is considered a random effect, and week is nested within five blocks of 4 weeks each (block 1, 2, . . . , 5 corresponds to weeks 1–4, 5–8, . . . , 17–20, respectively). The penalty effect was tested by using 10 contrasts according to blocks. The interaction between day care and blocks was also tested. The test results showed the following: 1. A significant effect exists for blocks: (4, 75) 5 41.83, p 5 .0001. Of the 10 F pairwise comparisons of blocks, seven are highly significant: F (1, 75) 5 15.52, p 5 .0002. Block 1 versus block 2: F Block 1 versus block 3: 5 83.44, p 5 .0001. (1, 75) Block 1 versus block 4: (1, 75) 5 112.30, p 5 .0001. F Block 1 versus block 5: F (1, 75) 5 97.35, p 5 .0001. Block 2 versus block 3: F 5 26.99, p 5 .0001. (1, 75) F 5 44.33, p 5 .0001. Block 2 versus block 4: (1, 75) F (1, 75) 5 35.14, p 5 .0001. Block 2 versus block 5: Block 3 versus block 4: F 5 2.14, p 5 .1478. (1, 75) Block 3 versus block 5: (1, 75) 5 0.54, p 5 .4665. F Block 4 versus block 5: F (1, 75) 5 0.53, p 5 .4673. 2. As before, there is a significant effect for day care: F 5 25.23, p 5 (5, 75) .0001. 3. There is a significant effect for week within blocks: (15, 75) 5 2.90, p 5 F .0012. 4. There is no significant interaction between day care and blocks: F (20, 75) 5 0.88, 5 .6117. p Finally, in addition to the contrasts we ran a simultaneous test to compare the five blocks in order to control the significance level (keep α 5 5 percent). To do this, Duncan’s multiple range test was employed. The results of this test showed a significant difference between weeks 1–4, 5–8, and 9–20. There was no significant difference between weeks 9–12, 13–16, and 17–20.
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