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On the Competition of Asymmetric Agents

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  • Christine Harbring
  • Gabriele K. Lünser

Abstract

Rank-order tournaments are usually implemented in organizations to provide incentives for eliciting employees' effort and/or to identify the agent with the higher ability, for example in promotion tournaments. We close a gap in the literature by experimentally analyzing a ceteris paribus variation of the prize spread - being the major design feature of tournaments - in a symmetric and an asymmetric setting. We find that effort significantly increases with the prize spread as predicted by standard theory. However, only for sufficiently large prize spreads weak players competing against strong players strain themselves all the more and sorting of agents is feasible. Copyright 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation Verein für Socialpolitik and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008.

Suggested Citation

  • Christine Harbring & Gabriele K. Lünser, 2008. "On the Competition of Asymmetric Agents," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 9, pages 373-395, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:germec:v:9:y:2008:i::p:373-395
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Müller, W. & Schotter, A., 2003. "Workaholics and Drop Outs in Optimal Organizations," Discussion Paper 2003-43, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    2. Christian Grund & Dirk Sliwka, 2005. "Envy and Compassion in Tournaments," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(1), pages 187-207, March.
    3. Lynch, James G., 2005. "The effort effects of prizes in the second half of tournaments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 115-129, May.
    4. Harbring, Christine & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2008. "How many winners are good to have?: On tournaments with sabotage," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 682-702, March.
    5. R. Cookson, 2000. "Framing Effects in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 3(1), pages 55-79, June.
    6. Christine Harbring & Bernd Irlenbusch, 2005. "Incentives in Tournaments with Endogenous Prize Selection," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(4), pages 636-636, December.
    7. Eriksson, Tor, 1999. "Executive Compensation and Tournament Theory: Empirical Tests on Danish Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 262-280, April.
    8. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Bognanno, Michael L, 1990. "Do Tournaments Have Incentive Effects?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1307-1324, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Conrads, Julian & Irlenbusch, Bernd & Rilke, Rainer Michael & Schielke, Anne & Walkowitz, Gari, 2014. "Honesty in tournaments," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 123(1), pages 90-93.
    2. Emmanuel Dechenaux & Dan Kovenock & Roman Sheremeta, 2015. "A survey of experimental research on contests, all-pay auctions and tournaments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(4), pages 609-669, December.
    3. Gürtler, Oliver & Kräkel, Matthias, 2010. "Optimal tournament contracts for heterogeneous workers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 180-191, August.
    4. Gadi Barlevy & Derek Neal, 2012. "Pay for Percentile," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 1805-1831, August.
    5. Stracke, Rudi & Höchtl, Wolfgang & Kerschbamer, Rudolf & Sunde, Uwe, 2012. "Optimal Prizes in Dynamic Elimination Contests: An Experimental Analysis," Economics Working Paper Series 1208, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    6. Josse Delfgaauw & Robert Dur & Arjan Non & Willem Verbeke, 2015. "The Effects of Prize Spread and Noise in Elimination Tournaments: A Natural Field Experiment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(3), pages 521-569.
    7. Kräkel, Matthias & Nieken, Petra, 2015. "Relative performance pay in the shadow of crisis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 244-268.
    8. Stracke, Rudi & Höchtl, Wolfgang & Kerschbamer, Rudolf & Sunde, Uwe, 2014. "Optimal prizes in dynamic elimination contests: Theory and experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 43-58.
    9. Emanuela Lezzi & Piers Fleming & Daniel John Zizzo, 2015. "Does it matter which effort task you use? A comparison of four effort tasks when agents compete for a prize," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 15-05, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    10. Nieken, Petra & Stegh, Michael, 2010. "Incentive Effects in Asymmetric Tournaments Empirical Evidence from the German Hockey League," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 305, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.

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