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Using a Simple Contest to Illustrate Mechanism Design


  • Calvin Blackwell


This article describes a simple classroom activity that illustrates how economic theory can be used for mechanism design. The rules for a set of contests are presented; the results typically obtained from these contests illustrate how the prize structure can be manipulated in order to produce a particular outcome. Specifically, this activity is designed to show how changing the prize structure can impact both the contestants’ average efforts and the effort level of the hardest-working contestant. The activity can be run in a 50-minute class, has instructions that fit on a single piece of paper, and, although it can be run in large classes, requires only six students.

Suggested Citation

  • Calvin Blackwell, 2011. "Using a Simple Contest to Illustrate Mechanism Design," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(4), pages 375-387, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:42:y:2011:i:4:p:375-387
    DOI: 10.1080/00220485.2011.606088

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