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The nature of tournaments

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  • Robert Akerlof

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  • Richard Holden

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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

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Akerlof & Richard Holden, 2012. "The nature of tournaments," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 51(2), pages 289-313, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joecth:v:51:y:2012:i:2:p:289-313
    DOI: 10.1007/s00199-010-0523-4
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kai Konrad & Dan Kovenock, 2012. "Introduction," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 51(2), pages 241-245, October.
    2. Segev, Ella & Sela, Aner, 2011. "Sequential All-Pay Auctions with Noisy Outputs," CEPR Discussion Papers 8509, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Minchuk, Yizhaq & Sela, Aner, 2014. "All-pay auctions with certain and uncertain prizes," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 130-134.
    4. Loukas Balafoutas & E. Glenn Dutcher & Florian Lindner & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2017. "The Optimal Allocation Of Prizes In Tournaments Of Heterogeneous Agents," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(1), pages 461-478, January.
    5. Aner Sela & Maya Amiad, 2016. "The Optimal Allocation Of Punishments In Tullock Contests," Working Papers 1613, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.
    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. Segev, Ella & Sela, Aner, 2014. "Sequential all-pay auctions with noisy outputs," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 251-261.
    8. Sela, Aner, 2016. "The Optimal Allocation of Punishments in Tullock Contests," CEPR Discussion Papers 11592, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Dutcher, E. Glenn & Balafoutas, Loukas & Lindner, Florian & Ryvkin, Dmitry & Sutter, Matthias, 2015. "Strive to be first or avoid being last: An experiment on relative performance incentives," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 39-56.
    10. Kamijo, Yoshio, 2016. "Rewards versus punishments in additive, weakest-link, and best-shot contests," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 17-30.
    11. Ewerhart, Christian, 2016. "An envelope approach to tournament design," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1-9.
    12. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2012. "Carrots And Sticks: Prizes And Punishments In Contests," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 50(2), pages 453-462, April.
    13. 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," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79885, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    14. Sela, Aner, 2009. "Best-of-Three All-Pay Auctions," CEPR Discussion Papers 7224, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Prizes; Tournaments; L22;

    JEL classification:

    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure

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