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Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts

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  • Edward P. Lazear
  • Sherwin Rosen

Abstract

This paper analyzes compensation schemes which pay according to an individual's ordinal rank in an organization rather than his output level. When workers are risk neutral, it is shown that wages based upon rank induce the same efficient allocation of resources as an incentive reward scheme based on individual output levels. Under some circumstances, risk-averse workers actually prefer to be paid on the basis of rank. In addition, if workers are heterogeneous inability, low-quality workers attempt to contaminate high-quality firms, resulting in adverse selection. However, if ability is known in advance, a competitive handicapping structure exists which allows all workers to compete efficiently in the same organization.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0401
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-1284, December.
    10. Wilson, Charles, 1977. "A model of insurance markets with incomplete information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 167-207, December.
    11. George Akerlof, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617.
    12. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
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