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The nature of tournaments

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  • Robert Akerlof

    ()

  • Richard Holden

    ()

Abstract

This paper characterizes the optimal way for a principal to structure a rank-order tournament in a moral hazard setting (as in Lazear and Rosen in J Polit Econ 89:841–864, 1981). We find that it is often optimal to give rewards to top performers that are smaller in magnitude than corresponding punishments to poor performers. The paper identifies four reasons why the principal might prefer to give larger rewards than punishments: (1) R is small relative to P (where R is risk aversion and P is absolute prudence); (2) the distribution of shocks to output is asymmetric and the asymmetry takes a particular form; (3) the principal faces a limited liability constraint; and (4) there is agent heterogeneity of a particular form. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2012

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Economic Theory.

Volume (Year): 51 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (October)
Pages: 289-313

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Handle: RePEc:spr:joecth:v:51:y:2012:i:2:p:289-313

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Related research

Keywords: Prizes; Tournaments; L22;

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References

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  1. Anja Schöttner, 2005. "Fixed-Prize Tournaments versus First-Price Auctions in Innovation Contests," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2005-041, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  2. Christopher D. Carroll & Miles S. Kimball, 1995. "On the concavity of the consumption function," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 95-10, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Caplin, A. & Nalebuff, B., 1989. "Aggregation And Social Choice: A Mean Voter Theorem," Discussion Papers 1989_31, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  4. Skaperdas, Stergios, 1996. "Contest Success Functions," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 283-90, February.
  5. Miles S. Kimball, 1989. "Precautionary Saving in the Small and in the Large," NBER Working Papers 2848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Vijay Krishna & John Morgan, 1994. "An Analysis of the War of Attrition and the All-Pay Auction," Game Theory and Information 9409002, EconWPA.
  7. Edward P. Lazear, 1991. "Labor Economics and the Psychology of Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 89-110, Spring.
  8. Barut, Yasar & Kovenock, Dan, 1998. "The symmetric multiple prize all-pay auction with complete information," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 627-644, November.
  9. Arye L. Hillman & John G. Riley, 1989. "Politically Contestable Rents And Transfers," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 17-39, 03.
  10. Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Jewitt, Ian, 1988. "Justifying the First-Order Approach to Principal-Agent Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1177-90, September.
  12. Glazer, Amihai & Hassin, Refael, 1988. "Optimal Contests," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(1), pages 133-43, January.
  13. Clark, Derek J & Riis, Christian, 1998. "Competition over More Than One Prize," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 276-89, March.
  14. Jonathan Levin, 2002. "Multilateral Contracting And The Employment Relationship," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1075-1103, August.
  15. Barry J. Nalebuff & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1983. "Prices and Incentives: Towards a General Theory of Compensation and Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(1), pages 21-43, Spring.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Segev, Ella & Sela, Aner, 2014. "Sequential all-pay auctions with noisy outputs," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 251-261.
  2. Loukas Balafoutas & Glenn Dutcher & Florian Lindner & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2012. "The optimal allocation of prizes in tournaments of heterogeneous agents," Working Papers 2012-08, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  3. Lindner, Florian & Dutcher, E. Glenn & Balafoutas, Loukas & Ryvkin, Dmitry & Sutter, Matthias, 2013. "Strive to be first and avoid being last: An experiment on relative performance incentives," Munich Reprints in Economics 19235, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  4. Benny Modovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2008. "Carrots and Sticks: Prizes and Punishments in Contests," Working Papers 0802, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.
  5. Segev, Ella & Sela, Aner, 2011. "Sequential All-Pay Auctions with Noisy Outputs," CEPR Discussion Papers 8509, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Thomas, Jonathan P. & Wang, Zhewei, 2013. "Optimal punishment in contests with endogenous entry," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 34-50.
  7. E. Glenn Dutcher & Loukas Balafoutas & Florian Lindner & Dmitry Ryvkin & Matthias Sutter, 2013. "Strive to be first or avoid being last: An experiment on relative performance incentives," Working Papers 2013-08, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  8. Sela, Aner, 2009. "Best-of-Three All-Pay Auctions," CEPR Discussion Papers 7224, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Ella Segev & Aner Sela, 2011. "Sequential All-Pay Auctions with Head Starts and Noisy Outputs," Working Papers 1106, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.

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