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A Comparison of Tournaments and Contracts

  • Green, Jerry
  • Stokey, Nancy

Tournaments, reward structures based on rank order, are compared with individual contracts in a model with one risk-neutral principal and many risk-averse agents. Each agent's output is a stochastic function of his effort level plus an additive shock term that is common to all the agents. The principal observes only the output levels of the agents. It is shown that, in the absence of a common shock, using optimal independent contracts dominates using the optimal tournament. Conversely, if the distribution of the common shock is sufficiently diffuse, using the optimal tournament dominates using optimal independent contracts. Finally, it is shown that for a sufficiently large number of agents, a principal who cannot observe the common shock but uses the optimal tournament does as well as one who can observe the shock and uses independent contracts.

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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3203644.

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Date of creation: 1983
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Political Economy
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3203644
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  1. Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Bengt Holmstrom, 1979. "Moral Hazard and Observability," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 74-91, Spring.
  3. Mirrlees, J A, 1999. "The Theory of Moral Hazard and Unobservable Behaviour: Part I," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 3-21, January.
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