Sorting and wage premiums in immoral work

Last registered on May 20, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Sorting and wage premiums in immoral work
Initial registration date
May 20, 2020
Last updated
May 20, 2020, 10:46 AM EDT



Primary Investigator

University of Zurich

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Zurich
PI Affiliation
University of Zurich

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
We use surveys, laboratory experiments and administrative labor-market data to study how heterogeneity in the perceived immorality of work and in workers’ aversion to acting immorally interact to impact labor market outcomes. Specifically, we investigate whether those individuals least concerned with acting morally select into jobs generally perceived as immoral and whether the aversion among many individuals to performing such acts contributes to immorality wage premiums, a form of compensating differential. We show that immoral work is associated with higher wages, both using correlational evidence from administrative labor-market data and causal evidence from a laboratory experiment. We also measure individuals’ aversion to performing immoral acts and show that those who find immoral behavior least aversive are more likely to be employed in immoral work in the lab and have a relative preference for work perceived as immoral outside the laboratory. We note that sorting by “immoral” types into jobs that can cause harm may be detrimental for society. Our study also highlights the value of employing complementary research methods.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Brun, Fanny , Florian Schneider and Roberto Weber. 2020. "Sorting and wage premiums in immoral work." AEA RCT Registry. May 20.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Average market wages, employment rates
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
In the experiment, we first elicit measures of subjects’ concern for morality. We obtain two measures of individuals’ aversion to acting immorally, from a behavioral task and from a survey conducted several days apart. We use these measures to investigate whether participants with low concerns for morality sort into immoral labor markets (employment rates). Second, subjects participate in a laboratory labor market for 15 periods, in which they submit reservation wages for performing a task. The key feature of our laboratory experiment is that we vary by treatment only the degree to which work is immoral, while holding constant all other job characteristics, including the specific actions subjects take when employed. We use this exogenous variation in job immorality to study whether immoral work is associated with higher wages (average market wages).
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
randomization done by a computer
Randomization Unit
experimental session
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
We conducted 10 sessions. Each session consists of 4 markets / 24 participants.
Sample size: planned number of observations
240 participants
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
168 participants in the immoral market treatment
72 participants in the neutral market treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Study has received IRB approval. Details not available.
IRB Approval Date
Details not available
IRB Approval Number
Details not available


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials