On the Limits of Nonprofit Firms

University dissertation from Mediatryck

Abstract: This thesis consists of two papers. The first gives a game-theoretical treatment of the institutional homogenization of value-oriented firms. It explains why intrinsically motivated, value-oriented firms like non-profits may become similar to for-profit firms in terms of organization and norms. It highlights and explains the pairs: value-oriented and flat organizations in contrast to value-neutral managers and hierarchical organizations. We consider a major donor like the government who delegates a project to an organization without endowments under asymmetric information. The non-profit is able to adapt its organization by establishing a hierarchy with an intrinsically motivated manager. The donor can in turn react by employing institutions in order to cope with information asymmetries regarding the mission of the organization and the unverifiable values of the manager. Two main cases are examined, one without competition and a competitive case. The equilibrium in the first case is a flat organization or alternatively highly altruistic hierarchy. The second competitive case is characterized by a value neutral hierarchy. The second paper treats human capital formation as a game of strategic interaction between a citizen and the educational system consisting of two separate stages which correspond to elementary and higher education. The product of the interaction is human capital and the equilibrium outcome at the first stage affects the student’s productivity at the second stage of higher education. This research shows how the intertemporal nature of learning opens up for opportunism between elementary and higher education and limits the scope of using non-profits against cost-savings in the presence of for-profit firms. The character of relevant school reform will in general depend on the impact of changes at the structural level relative to the impact of reform aimed at the interpersonal level within the classroom domain. The analysis suggests that pedagogical orientation and the pupil’s aim or predisposition to be forward looking, are important determinants of learning outcomes. We show that what happens between the classroom walls is decisive for how the human capital stock is affected in different contractual settings.

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