A wealthy family has two maids. One has an exclusive contract and receives a fixed salary. The other works a certain number of hours every day. Normally it is the full-time maid who cooks but sometimes the other one has to prepare the meals. The family has noticed that the food prepared by the latter is worse and has concluded that she didn’t know how to cook. Suggest other explanatory hypotheses and describe tests to compare them.


The problem can be considered from using several approaches: self-selection of tastes, limited time, specialization, incentives (if payment is for going fast then the worker only works fast) and sabotage by both maids.

The hourly wage is not the best way to motivate work where quality substantially matters. The second maid is paid not for good cooking but for doing housework during a certain amount of hours. The job of the first maid, however, depends on the quality of her work, so she has an incentive to perform really well. She knows that there is another maid who can substitute her if she fails in her obligations. The mere presence of a second maid makes the first one work harder because she faces competition. A possible test to compare the two maids should be based on putting them under the same conditions. If they both are given a fixed wage and one works one day and the other – the following, this will create incentives for both to do their best and will make their performance comparable.

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