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Sorting Out the Differences Between Signaling and Screening Models

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  • Joseph Stiglitz
  • Andrew Weiss

Abstract

In this paper we analyze games in which there is trade between informed and uninformed players. The informed know the value of the trade (for instance, the value of their productivity in a labor market example); the uninformed only know the distribution of attributes among the informed. The informed choose actions (education levels in the Spence model); the uninformed choose prices (wages of interest rates). We refer to games in which the informed move first as signaling games - they choose actions to signal their type. Games when the uninformed move first are referred to as screening games. We show that in sequential equilibria of screening games same contracts can generate positive profits and others negative profits, while in signaling games all contracts break even. However, if the indifference carves of the informed agents satisfy what roughly would amount to a single crossing property in two dimensions, and some technical conditions hold, then all contacts in the screening game break even, and the set of outcomes of the screening game is a subset of the outcomes of the corresponding signaling game. In the postscript we take a broad view of the strengths and weakness of the approach taken in this and other papers to problems of asymmetric information, and present recommendations for how future research should proceed in this field.

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  • Joseph Stiglitz & Andrew Weiss, 1990. "Sorting Out the Differences Between Signaling and Screening Models," NBER Technical Working Papers 0093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberte:0093
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Kreps, David M. & Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Rational cooperation in the finitely repeated prisoners' dilemma," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 245-252, August.
    3. Roger B. Myerson, 1977. "Refinements of the Nash Equilibrium Concept," Discussion Papers 295, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    4. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1981. "Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 393-410, June.
    5. In-Koo Cho & David M. Kreps, 1987. "Signaling Games and Stable Equilibria," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(2), pages 179-221.
    6. Robert W. Rosenthal & Andrew Weiss, 1984. "Mixed-Strategy Equilibrium in a Market with Asymmetric Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 333-342.
    7. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1983. "Sequential Bargaining with Incomplete Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(2), pages 221-247.
    8. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sobel, Joel, 1987. "Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 647-661, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sebastian Stolorz, 2005. "A Test of the Signalling Hypothesis - Evidence from Natural Experiment," Labor and Demography 0512008, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Deborah Lucas & Robert L. McDonald, 1987. "Bank Financing and Investment Decisions with Asymmetric Information," NBER Working Papers 2422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Joseph E. Stiglitz & Andrew Weiss, 1987. "Macro-Economic Equilibrium and Credit Rationing," NBER Working Papers 2164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Noldeke, Georg & Samuelson, Larry, 1997. "A Dynamic Model of Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Markets," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 118-156, March.
    5. Noldeka, G. & Samuelson, L., 1994. "Learning to Signal in Market," Working papers 9409, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.

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