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Coarse Grades: Informing the Public by Withholding Information

Author

Listed:
  • Rick Harbaugh

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

  • Eric Rasmusen

    (Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, Indiana University Kelley School of Business)

Abstract

Certifiers of quality often report only coarse grades to the public despite having measured quality more finely, e.g., "Pass" or "Certified" instead of "73 out of 100". Why? We show that coarse grades result in more information being provided to the public because the coarseness encourages those of middling quality to apply for certification. Dropping exact grading in favor of the best coarse grading scheme always reduces public uncertainty because the extra participation outweighs the coarser reporting. In some circumstances, the coarsest meaningful grading scheme, pass-fail grading, is the most informative.

Suggested Citation

  • Rick Harbaugh & Eric Rasmusen, 2012. "Coarse Grades: Informing the Public by Withholding Information," Working Papers 2012-06, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:iuk:wpaper:2012-06
    as

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    File URL: http://kelley.iu.edu/riharbau/RePEc/iuk/wpaper/bepp2012-06-harbaugh-rasmusen.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    4. William Chan & Li Hao & Wing Suen, 2007. "A Signaling Theory Of Grade Inflation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 48(3), pages 1065-1090, August.
    5. Michael Ostrovsky & Michael Schwarz, 2010. "Information Disclosure and Unraveling in Matching Markets," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 34-63, May.
    6. Emmanuel Farhi & Josh Lerner & Jean Tirole, 2013. "Fear of rejection? Tiered certification and transparency," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 44(4), pages 610-631, December.
    7. Chakraborty, Archishman & Harbaugh, Rick, 2007. "Comparative cheap talk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 70-94, January.
      • Archishman Chakraborty & Rick Harbaugh, 2004. "Comparative Cheap Talk," Working Papers 2004-08, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
    8. Morgan, John & Stocken, Phillip C, 2003. " An Analysis of Stock Recommendations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(1), pages 183-203, Spring.
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    certification; grades; disclosure;

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

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