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Chambers College of Business and Economics




Does prosecutor pay impact performance? We attempt to identify the causal effect of wages on a prosecutor’s effort by studying a large (41%), exogenous salary increase for district attorneys in New York state. We measure the performance of prosecutors by the likelihood that a conviction is upheld when appealed. If the efficiency wage theory accurately explains non-market actor behavior, then the exogenous wage shock should entice better performance. Alternatively, if individuals who hold public office are motivated primarily by an intrinsic desire to carry out their office duties to the best of their ability rather than strictly financial compensation, then their performance would be unrelated to changes in their salary. We mostly find, inconsistent with efficiency wage theory, that an exogenous pay increase has a null effect on prosecutor performance.



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