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Investment Tournaments: When Should a Rational Agent Put All Eggs in One Basket?

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  • Michael Schwarz
  • Sergei Severinov

Abstract

In this paper we study "investment tournaments," a class of decision problems that involve gradual allocation of investment among several alternatives whose values are subject to exogenous shocks. The decision-maker's payoff is determined by the final values of the alternatives. An important example of career tournaments motivating our research is the career choice problem, since a person choosing a career often starts by investing in learning several professions. We show that in a broad range of cases it is optimal for the decision-maker in each time period to allocate all resources to the most promising alternative. We also show that in tournaments for a promotion the agents would rationally put forth a higher effort in an early stage of the tournament in a bid to capture a larger share of employer's investment, such as mentoring.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Schwarz & Sergei Severinov, 2009. "Investment Tournaments: When Should a Rational Agent Put All Eggs in One Basket?," NBER Working Papers 15136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15136
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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. Fredrik Andersson, 2002. "Career Concerns, Contracts, and Effort Distortions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 42-58, January.
    3. Taylor, Curtis R, 1995. "Digging for Golden Carrots: An Analysis of Research Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 872-890, September.
    4. Barut, Yasar & Kovenock, Dan, 1998. "The symmetric multiple prize all-pay auction with complete information," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 627-644, November.
    5. Christopher Ferrall, 1996. "Promotions and Incentives in Partnerships: Evidence from Major U.S. Law Firms," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(4), pages 811-827, November.
    6. Bhattacharya, Sudipto & Guasch, J Luis, 1988. "Heterogeneity, Tournaments, and Hierarchies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 867-881, August.
    7. Bengt Holmström, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 169-182.
    8. 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.
    9. Bengt Holmstrom, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," NBER Working Papers 6875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Landers, Renee M & Rebitzer, James B & Taylor, Lowell J, 1996. "Rat Race Redux: Adverse Selection in the Determination of Work Hours in Law Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 329-348, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts

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