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Competition, Hidden Information and Efficiency: An Experiment

Author

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  • Antonio Cabrales

    (Departamento de Economía - UC3M - Universidad Carlos III de Madrid [Madrid])

  • Gary Charness

    (Department of Economics - UC San Diego - University of California [San Diego] - University of California)

  • Marie Claire Villeval

    (GATE - Groupe d'analyse et de théorie économique - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - ENS LSH - Ecole Normale Supérieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, IZA - Institute for the study of labor - Institute for the Study of Labor - IZA)

Abstract

We devise an experiment to explore the effect of different degrees of competition on optimal contracts in a hidden-information context. In our benchmark case, each principal is matched with one agent of unknown type. In our second treatment, a principal can select one of three agents, while in a third treatment an agent may choose between the contract menus offered by two principals. We first show theoretically how these different degrees of competition affect outcomes and efficiency. Informational asymmetries generate inefficiency. In an environment where principals compete against each other to hire agents, these inefficiencies remain. In contrast, when agents compete to be hired, efficiency improves dramatically, and it increases in the relative number of agents because competition reduces the agents' informational monopoly power. However, this environment also generates a high inequality level and is characterized by multiple equilibria. In general, there is a fairly high degree of correspondence between the theoretical predictions and the contract menus actually chosen in each treatment. There is, however, a tendency to choose more ‘generous' (and more efficient) contract menus over time. Competition leads to a substantially higher probability of trade, and that, overall, competition between agents generates the most efficient outcomes.

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  • Antonio Cabrales & Gary Charness & Marie Claire Villeval, 2006. "Competition, Hidden Information and Efficiency: An Experiment," Post-Print halshs-00175051, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00175051
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00175051
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    Cited by:

    1. Gary Charness & Peter Kuhn & Marie Claire Villeval, 2011. "Competition and the Ratchet Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(3), pages 513-547.
    2. Huck, Steffen & Lünser, Gabriele K. & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2012. "Competition fosters trust," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 195-209.
    3. Gary Charness & Peter Kuhn & Marie Claire Villeval, 2011. "Competition and the Ratchet Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(3), pages 513-547.
    4. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 3, pages 229-330, Elsevier.
    5. Gary Charness & Peter Kuhn & Marie Claire Villeval, 2011. "Competition and the Ratchet Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(3), pages 513-547.
    6. Schwieren, Christiane & Weichselbaumer, Doris, 2010. "Does competition enhance performance or cheating? A laboratory experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 241-253, June.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    experiment; hidden information; competition; efficiency;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • B49 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Other
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts

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