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Risk, Incentives and Contracts: Partnerships in Rio de Janeiro, 1870-1891

Ran Abramitzky
Aprajit Mahajan
The Journal of Economic History
Sep 2010

We construct an individual-level data set of partnership contracts in late-nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro to study the determinants of contract terms. Partners with limited liability contributed more capital and received lower draws for private expenses and lower profit shares than their unlimited partners. Unlimited partners in turn received higher-powered incentives when they contracted with limited partners than when they contracted with unlimited partners. A reform that changed the relative bargaining power further improved the terms of unlimited partners in limited firms. These findings highlight the roles of risk, incentives, and bargaining power in shaping contracts.