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Grading on a Curve, and other Effects of Group Size on All-Pay Auctions

  • James Andreoni
  • Andy Brownback

We model contests with a fixed proportion of prizes, such as a grading curve, as all-pay auctions where higher effort weakly increases the likelihood of a prize. We find theoretical predictions for the effect of contest size on effort and test our predictions in a laboratory experiment that compares two-bidder auctions with one prize and 20-bidder auctions with ten prizes. Our results demonstrate that larger contests elicit lower effort by low-skilled students, but higher effort by high-skilled. Large contests also generate more accurate rankings of students and more accurate assignment of high grades to the high-skilled.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 20184.

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Date of creation: May 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20184
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  1. Dan Kovenock & Michael R. Baye & Casper G. de Vries, 1996. "The all-pay auction with complete information (*)," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 291-305.
  2. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 1996. "School Resources and Student Outcomes: An Overview of the Literature and New Evidence from North and South Carolina," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 31-50, Fall.
  3. 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 841-64, October.
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  5. Pradeep Dubey & John Geanakoplos, 2009. "Grading Exams: 100, 99, 98,...or A, B, C?," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1710, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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  8. Wieland Müller & Andrew Schotter, 2010. "Workaholics and Dropouts in Organizations," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(4), pages 717-743, 06.
  9. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1985. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 85-21, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  10. Kagel, John H & Levin, Dan, 1993. "Independent Private Value Auctions: Bidder Behaviour in First-, Second- and Third-Price Auctions with Varying Numbers of Bidders," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(419), pages 868-79, July.
  11. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Christine Harbring & Bernd Irlenbusch, 2005. "Incentives in Tournaments with Endogenous Prize Selection," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 161(4), pages 636-, December.
  13. Douglas Davis & Robert Reilly, 1998. "Do too many cooks always spoil the stew? An experimental analysis of rent-seeking and the role of a strategic buyer," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 89-115, April.
  14. Andreoni, James & Che, Yeon-Koo & Kim, Jinwoo, 2007. "Asymmetric information about rivals' types in standard auctions: An experiment," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 240-259, May.
  15. Moldovanu, Benny & Sela, Aner, 1999. "The Optimal Allocation of Prizes in Contests," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 99-75, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  16. Emmanuel Dechenaux & Dan Kovenock & Roman Sheremeta, 2012. "A Survey of Experimental Research on Contests, All-Pay Auctions and Tournaments," Working Papers 12-22, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  17. 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.
  18. Yasar Barut & Dan Kovenock & Charles N. Noussair, 2002. "A Comparison of Multiple-Unit All-Pay and Winner-Pay Auctions Under Incomplete Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(3), pages 675-708, August.
  19. David Romer, 1993. "Do Students Go to Class? Should They?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 167-174, Summer.
  20. repec:ner:tilbur:urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-79319 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Baye, Michael R & Kovenock, Dan & de Vries, Casper G, 1993. "Rigging the Lobbying Process: An Application of the All-Pay Auction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 289-94, March.
  22. Becker, W. & Rosen, S., 1990. "The Learning Effect Of Assessment And Evaluation In High School," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 90-7, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  23. Amann, Erwin & Leininger, Wolfgang, 1996. "Asymmetric All-Pay Auctions with Incomplete Information: The Two-Player Case," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 1-18, May.
  24. William Vickrey, 1961. "Counterspeculation, Auctions, And Competitive Sealed Tenders," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 16(1), pages 8-37, 03.
  25. Kokkelenberg, Edward C. & Dillon, Michael & Christy, Sean M., 2008. "The effects of class size on student grades at a public university," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 221-233, April.
  26. Gneezy, Uri & Smorodinsky, Rann, 2006. "All-pay auctions--an experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 255-275, October.
  27. Krueger, Anne O, 1974. "The Political Economy of the Rent-Seeking Society," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(3), pages 291-303, June.
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