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Monetary and promotion incentives in hyerarchical public organizations: experimental evidence from the community health worker program in Sierra Leone

Public economics

Senior Researcher : Gianmarco León-Ciliotta

Research Centre or Institution : Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Barcelona


The project aims at studying two key and typically unexplored ways of incentivizing frontline workers in the public sector: promotion incentives and performance pay. Our study takes place in the context of a large public sector organization: the Community Health Worker program in Sierra Leone. In this organization, workers are organized in teams, where a supervisor is in charge of between 2 and 18 health workers. Each of these workers is in charge of providing maternal and child health services to members of their community.

Progress Report:
The randomized interventions and data collection have been completed, the data analysis has been completed as well and we have produced two working papers. These papers have been presented in different top-level academic event and at this stage we are in the process of submission of the papers to be published in academic journals. Additionally, we’ve traveled to Sierra Leone to present the results of our studies to relevant policy makers and plant the seeds for future projects that follows the same lines as those that we’ve been able to complete thanks to the Foundation.

Main Results:
In the first project, we study the effects of meritocratic promotions and pay progression in the public sector. The results show that meritocratic promotions lead to higher productivity when they are paired high pay progression. Instead, non-meritocratic promotion systems with high pay progression lead to a reduction in productivity, and this is explained by negative morale effects.

In the second project, we study the introduction of performance pay in the organization, and more precisely, we try to understand the optimal division of monetary incentives between the layers of the organization. The results from the randomized evaluation show that when incentives are shared between supervisors and health workers, they produce an increase in productivity that is 61% higher that when these  incentives are only targeted to either supervisors or health workers alone. The differential boost in productivity is explained by the presence of production complementarities and contractual frictions that prevent the redistribution of incentives between the two layers of the organization.


Scientific Production
Magazine Articles -
Communications at national conferences -
Communications at international conferences 24


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