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Optimal Inequality/Optimal Incentives: Evidence from a Tournament

This paper examines performance in a tournament setting with different levels of inequality in rewards and different provision of information about individual's skill at the task prior to the tournament. We find that that total tournament output depends on inequality according to an inverse U shaped function: We reward subjects based on the number of mazes they can solve, and the number of solved mazes is lowest when payments are independent of the participants' performance; rises to a maximum at a medium level of inequality; then falls at the highest level of inequality. These results are strongest when participants know the number of mazes they solved relative to others in a pre-tournament round and thus can judge their likely success in the tournament. Finally, we find that cheating/fudging on the experiment responds to the level of inequality and information about relative positions. Our results support a model of optimal allocation of prizes in tournaments that postulate convex cost of effort functions.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12588.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12588.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12588
Note: LS POL
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  1. Friedland, Nehemiah & Maital, Shlomo & Rutenberg, Aryeh, 1978. "A simulation study of income tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 107-116, August.
  2. Barro, Robert J, 2000. " Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
  3. Corns, Allan & Schotter, Andrew, 1996. "Can Affirmative Action be Cost-Effective? An Experimental Examination of Price-Preference Auctions," Working Papers 96-02, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  4. Yasar Barut & Dan Kovenock & Charles Noussair, 1999. "A Comparison of Multiple-Unit All-Pay and Winner-Pay Auctions Under Incomplete Information," CIG Working Papers FS IV 99-09, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG).
  5. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela, 2001. "The Optimal Allocation of Prizes in Contests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 542-558, June.
  6. PARREIRAS, Sérgio O. & RUBINCHIK-PESSACH, Anna, 2006. "Contests with heterogeneous agents," CORE Discussion Papers 2006004, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  7. Bénabou, Roland, 1996. "Inequality and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1450, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Duflo, Esther, 2003. " Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 267-99, September.
  9. Noussair, Charles & Silver, Jonathon, 2006. "Behavior in all-pay auctions with incomplete information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 189-206, April.
  10. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
  11. Perotti, Roberto, 1996. " Growth, Income Distribution, and Democracy: What the Data Say," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 149-87, June.
  12. Keefer, Philip & Knack, Stephen, 2002. " Polarization, Politics and Property Rights: Links between Inequality and Growth," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 111(1-2), pages 127-54, March.
  13. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
  14. Levitt, Steven D., 2002. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt2wj7v1j4, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  15. Alm, James & McClelland, Gary H. & Schulze, William D., 1992. "Why do people pay taxes?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 21-38, June.
  16. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
  17. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2000. "Pay Enough Or Don'T Pay At All," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 791-810, August.
  18. Harbring, Christine & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2003. "An experimental study on tournament design," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 443-464, August.
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