Abstract

We use a data set describing ownership of productive assets in the carpentry trade to evaluate several factors influencing the allocation of asset ownership between an employer and his employees. The findings suggest that the allocation involves a tradeoff between two incentive effects influencing how the employee uses the asset and what the employer decides it should be used for. In particular, the allocation of ownership hinges on whether an asset is easily lost or stolen, which favors employee ownership, and whether the employer's task assignment affects the asset's depreciation, which favors employer ownership. There is also evidence that more expensive assets and assets that are shared by more than one employee are more likely to be owned by the employer. The results suggest that a general theory of asset ownership should be able to take account of at least these effects.

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