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Optimal Inequality/Optimal Incentives: Evidence from a Tournament

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  • Richard B. Freeman

Abstract

This paper examines performance in a tournament setting with different levels of inequality in rewards and different provision of information about individual's skill at the task prior to the tournament. We find that that total tournament output depends on inequality according to an inverse U shaped function: We reward subjects based on the number of mazes they can solve, and the number of solved mazes is lowest when payments are independent of the participants' performance; rises to a maximum at a medium level of inequality; then falls at the highest level of inequality. These results are strongest when participants know the number of mazes they solved relative to others in a pre-tournament round and thus can judge their likely success in the tournament. Finally, we find that cheating/fudging on the experiment responds to the level of inequality and information about relative positions. Our results support a model of optimal allocation of prizes in tournaments that postulate convex cost of effort functions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12588.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12588

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  1. Keefer, Philip & Knack, Stephen, 2000. "Polarization, politics, and property rights : links between inequality and growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2418, The World Bank.
  2. Noussair, Charles & Silver, Jonathon, 2006. "Behavior in all-pay auctions with incomplete information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 189-206, April.
  3. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Duflo, Esther, 2003. " Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 267-99, September.
  4. PARREIRAS, Sérgio O. & RUBINCHIK-PESSACH, Anna, 2006. "Contests with heterogeneous agents," CORE Discussion Papers 2006004, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  5. Roland Benabou, 1996. "Inequality and Growth," NBER Working Papers 5658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Harbring, Christine & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2003. "An experimental study on tournament design," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 443-464, August.
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  8. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
  9. Barro, Robert J, 2000. " Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
  10. Levitt, Steven D., 2002. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt2wj7v1j4, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  11. Yasar Barut & Dan Kovenock & Charles N. Noussair, 2002. "A Comparison of Multiple-Unit All-Pay and Winner-Pay Auctions Under Incomplete Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(3), pages 675-708, August.
  12. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
  13. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela, 2001. "The Optimal Allocation of Prizes in Contests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 542-558, June.
  14. Andrew Schotter & Allan Corns, 1999. "Can Affirmative Action Be Cost Effective? An Experimental Examination of Price-Preference Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 291-305, March.
  15. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2000. "Pay Enough Or Don'T Pay At All," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 791-810, August.
  16. Friedland, Nehemiah & Maital, Shlomo & Rutenberg, Aryeh, 1978. "A simulation study of income tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 107-116, August.
  17. Perotti, Roberto, 1996. " Growth, Income Distribution, and Democracy: What the Data Say," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 149-87, June.
  18. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Alex Bryson & Rafael Gomez & Kerry L. Papps, 2010. "Heterogeneous Worker Ability and Team-Based Production: Evidence from Major League Baseball, 1920-2009," CEP Discussion Papers dp1015, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. Edwin Leuven & Hessel Oosterbeek & Joep Sonnemans & Bas van der Klaauw, 2011. "Incentives versus Sorting in Tournaments: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(3), pages 637 - 658.
  3. Freeman, Richard B. & Gelber, Alexander M., 2008. "Prize Structure and Information in Tournaments: Experimental Evidence," MPRA Paper 12156, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Christian Pfeifer, 2010. "Impact of wages and job levels on worker absenteeism," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 31(1), pages 59-72, May.

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