IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Unfair contests

  • E. Feess
  • Gerd Muehlheusser


  • M. Walzl

Real-world contests are often "unfair" in the sense that outperforming all rivals may not be enough to be the winner, because some contestants are favored by the allocation rule, while others are handicapped. Examples of such contests can be inter alia found in the area of litigation and procurement.This paper analyzes discriminatory contests (which are strategically equivalent to all-pay auctions) with a handicap for one of the participants. We first characterize the equilibriumstrategies, provide closed form solutions, and illustrate the additional strategic issues arising through this asymmetry. We then analyze the issue of the optimal degree of unfairness. From a social point of view, the following trade-off arises: The disadvantage of unfair contests is that the prize may be awarded to an inferior contestant. On the other hand, under the assumption that the effort exerted by contestants to increase their chancesof winning the prize is wasteful from a social point of view, one advantage of an unfair contest is that it leads to lower effort incentives. We characterize situations in which it is optimal for an authority to either stipulate a fair contest, an interior degree of unfairness or even an infinitely unfair contest where the prize is directly awarded to one of the ontestants.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 93 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (04)
Pages: 267-291

in new window

Handle: RePEc:kap:jeczfn:v:93:y:2008:i:3:p:267-291
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. 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.
  2. Ciska M. Bosman & Gerard Pfann & Jeff E. Biddle & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1997. "Business Success and Businesses' Beauty Capital," NBER Working Papers 6083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Baye, M. & Kovenock, D. & de Vries, C., 1990. "The All-Pay Auction with Complete Information," Discussion Paper 1990-51, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  4. Richard L. Fullerton & R. Preston McAfee, 1999. "Auctioning Entry into Tournaments," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 573-605, June.
  5. Venus Khim-Sen Liew & Ahmad Zubaidi Baharumshahb & Evan Laub, 2004. "Nonlinear Adjustment towards Purchasing Power Parity in ASEAN Exchange Rates," The IUP Journal of Applied Economics, IUP Publications, vol. 0(6), pages 7-18, November.
  6. Yeon-Koo Che & Ian Gale, 2003. "Optimal Design of Research Contests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 646-671, June.
  7. Athey, Susan, 2001. "Single Crossing Properties and the Existence of Pure Strategy Equilibria in Games of Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 861-89, July.
  8. Kohli, Inderjit & Singh, Nirvikar, 1999. " Rent Seeking and Rent Setting with Asymmetric Effectiveness of Lobbying," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 99(3-4), pages 275-98, June.
  9. Krishna, Vijay & Morgan, John, 1997. "An Analysis of the War of Attrition and the All-Pay Auction," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 343-362, February.
  10. Konrad, Kai A., 2001. "Investment in the Absence of Property Rights: The Role of Incumbency Advantages," CEPR Discussion Papers 3050, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Lien, Da-Hsiang Donald, 1990. "Corruption and allocation efficiency," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 153-164, July.
  12. Bester, Helmut & Konrad, Kai A., 2004. "Delay in contests," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(5), pages 1169-1178, October.
  13. Maskin, Eric & Riley, John, 2000. "Asymmetric Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 413-38, July.
  14. А. Radygin., 2004. "Russia in 2000-2004: Heading towards State Capitalism?," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
  15. Paul Milgrom & Robert J. Weber, 1981. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Discussion Papers 447R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  16. Elmar A. Janssen & Rene Fahr, 2014. "The Wage Effects of Social Norms - Evidence of Deviations from Peers' Body Mass in Europe," Working Papers Dissertations 04, University of Paderborn, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics.
  17. Moldovanu, Benny & Sela, Aner, 2002. "Contest Architecture," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 02-06, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  18. Baye, M.R. & Kovenock, D. & De Vries, C.G., 1992. "Rigging the Lobbying Process: An Application of the All- Pay Auction," Papers 9-92-2, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  19. Jean Tirole, 1988. "The Theory of Industrial Organization," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262200716, June.
  20. Arieh Gavious & Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela, 2002. "Bid Costs and Endogenous Bid Caps," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 709-722, Winter.
  21. Clark, Derek J. & Riis, Christian, 2000. "Allocation efficiency in a competitive bribery game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 109-124, May.
  22. Mobius, Markus & Rosenblat, Tanya, 2006. "Why Beauty Matters," Scholarly Articles 3043406, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  23. Taylor, Curtis R, 1995. "Digging for Golden Carrots: An Analysis of Research Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 872-90, September.
  24. Antonio Bernardo & Eric L. Talley & Ivo Welch, 1999. "A Theory of Legal Presumptions," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm118, Yale School of Management.
  25. Yeon-Koo Che & Ian Gale, 1998. "Caps on Political Lobbying," Microeconomics 9809003, EconWPA.
  26. Lizzeri, Alessandro & Persico, Nicola, 2000. "Uniqueness and Existence of Equilibrium in Auctions with a Reserve Price," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 83-114, January.
  27. Amann, Erwin & Leininger, Wolfgang, 1996. "Asymmetric All-Pay Auctions with Incomplete Information: The Two-Player Case," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 1-18, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:jeczfn:v:93:y:2008:i:3:p:267-291. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

or (Christopher F. Baum)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.