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All-Pay Auctions vs. Lotteries as Provisional Fixed-Prize Fundraising Mechanisms

  • John Duffy
  • Alexander Matros

We study two provisional fixed-prize mechanisms for funding public goods: an all-pay auction and a lottery. In our setting, the public good is provided only if the participants' contributions are greater than the fixed-prize value; otherwise contributions are refunded. We prove that in this provisional fixed prize setting, lotteries can outperform all-pay auctions in terms of expected public good provision. Specifically, we state conditions under which the provisional fixed prize all-pay auction mechanism generates zero public good provision, while the provisional fixed prize lottery mechanism generates positive public good provision. We test these predictions in a laboratory experiment where we vary the number of participants, the marginal per capita return (mpcr) on the public good and the mechanism for awarding the prize, either a lottery or an all-pay auction. Consistent with the theory, we find that the mpcr matters for contribution amounts under the lottery mechanism. However, inconsistent with the theory bids are always significantly higher than predicted and there is no significant difference in public good contributions under either mechanism. We suggest how a non-expected utility approach involving probability weighting can help to explain over-bidding in our experiment.

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Paper provided by University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 448.

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Date of creation: Nov 2011
Date of revision: Jul 2013
Handle: RePEc:pit:wpaper:448
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  1. Luca Corazzini & Marco Faravelli & Luca Stanca, 2007. "A Prize to Give for: An Experiment on Public Good Funding Mechanisms," Working Papers 108, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised 2007.
  2. Arthur J.H.C. Schram & Sander Onderstal, 2009. "Bidding To Give: An Experimental Comparison Of Auctions For Charity," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(2), pages 431-457, 05.
  3. Douglas D. Davis & Laura Razzolini & Robert Reilly & Bart J. Wilson, 2003. "Raising Revenues for Charity: Auctions versus Lotteries," Working Papers 0301, VCU School of Business, Department of Economics.
  4. Jeffrey Carpenter & Jessica Holmes & PeterHans Matthews, 2008. "Charity auctions: a field experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(525), pages 92-113, 01.
  5. Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price, 2007. "Using Lotteries To Finance Public Goods: Theory And Experimental Evidence," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 48(3), pages 901-927, 08.
  6. repec:dgr:uvatin:20110070 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. repec:dgr:kubcen:199051 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Gneezy, Uri & Smorodinsky, Rann, 2006. "All-pay auctions--an experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 255-275, October.
  9. Morgan, John & Sefton, Martin, 2000. "Funding Public Goods with Lotteries: Experimental Evidence," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(4), pages 785-810, October.
  10. R. Isaac & James Walker & Susan Thomas, 1984. "Divergent evidence on free riding: An experimental examination of possible explanations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 113-149, January.
  11. Andreas Lange & Craig Landry & John List & Michael Price & Nicholas Rupp, 2006. "Toward an understanding of the economics of charity: Evidence from a field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00292, The Field Experiments Website.
  12. Henrik Orzen, 2005. "Fundraising through Competition: Evidence from the Lab," Discussion Papers 2005-04, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  13. Jacob K. Goeree & Emiel Maasland & Sander Onderstal & John L. Turner, 2005. "How (Not) to Raise Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 897-926, August.
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