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The Incentive Effects of Affirmative Action in a Real-Effort Tournament

  • Caterina Calsamiglia
  • Jörg Franke
  • Pedro Rey-Biel

Affirmative-action policies bias tournament rules in order to provide equal opportunities to a group of competitors who have a disadvantage they cannot be held responsible for. Critics argue that they distort incentives, resulting in lower individual performance, and that the selected pool of tournament winners may be inefficient. In this paper, we study the empirical validity of such claims in a real-effort pair-wise tournament between children from two similar schools who systematically differ in how much training they received ex-ante in the task at hand. Our results show that performance was not reduced for either advantaged or disadvantaged subjects and that it was in fact enhanced. Additionally, while affirmative action balanced the proportion of disadvantaged individuals winning their respective tournament, the average performance of the pool of winners only decreased slightly.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 404.

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Date of creation: Jul 2009
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:404
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  1. Jörg Franke, 2010. "Does Affirmative Action Reduce Effort Incentives? – A Contest Game Analysis," Ruhr Economic Papers 0185, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
  2. Marion, Justin, 2007. "Are bid preferences benign? The effect of small business subsidies in highway procurement auctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(7-8), pages 1591-1624, August.
  3. Jose Apesteguia & Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2010. "Psychological Pressure in Competitive Environments: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2548-64, December.
  4. Caterina Calsamiglia, 2009. "Decentralizing Equality Of Opportunity," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(1), pages 273-290, 02.
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