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Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts

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  • Lazear, Edward P
  • Rosen, Sherwin

Abstract

This paper analyzes compensation schemes which pay according to an individual's ordinal rank in an organization rather than his output level. When workers are risk neutral, it is shown that wages based upon rank induce the same efficient allocation of resources as an incentive reward scheme based on individual output levels. Under some circumstances, risk-averse workers actually prefer to be paid on the basis of rank. In addition, if workers are heterogeneous inability, low-quality workers attempt to contaminate high-quality firms, resulting in adverse selection. However, if ability is known in advance, a competitive handicapping structure exists which allows all workers to compete efficiently in the same organization.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 89 (1981)
Issue (Month): 5 (October)
Pages: 841-64

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:89:y:1981:i:5:p:841-64

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  1. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  2. Wilson, Charles, 1977. "A model of insurance markets with incomplete information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 167-207, December.
  3. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1976. "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 630-49, November.
  4. Ross, Stephen A, 1973. "The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal's Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 134-39, May.
  5. John G. Riley, 1974. "Competitive Signalling," UCLA Economics Working Papers 050, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
  7. Akerlof, George A, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617, November.
  8. Milton Friedman, 1953. "Choice, Chance, and the Personal Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 277.
  9. Joesph E. Stiglitz, 1975. "Incentives, Risk, and Information: Notes Towards a Theory of Hierarchy," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 6(2), pages 552-579, Autumn.
  10. Armen A. Alchian & Harold Demsetz, 1971. "Production, Information Costs and Economic Organizations," UCLA Economics Working Papers 10A, UCLA Department of Economics.
  11. James A. Mirrlees, 1976. "The Optimal Structure of Incentives and Authority Within an Organization," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 7(1), pages 105-131, Spring.
  12. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-84, December.
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