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Single versus Multiple Prize Contests to Finance Public Goods: Theory and Experimental Evidence

  • Marco Faravelli
  • Luca Stanca

This paper investigates single and multiple prize contests as incentive mechanisms for the private provision of public goods, under the assumptions of income heterogeneity and incomplete information about income levels. We compare experimentally a one-prize contest with a three-prize contest in a case where theory predicts that several prizes maximise revenues. We find that, contrary to the theoretical predictions, total contributions are significantly higher in the one-prize contest. In both treatments contributions converge towards theoretical predictions over successive rounds, but the effects of repetition are different: convergence is fast in the one-prize treatment, while gradual and with some undershooting in the three-prize treatment. Focusing on individual income types, the better performance of the single-prize contest is largely explained by the contributions of high income individuals: a single larger prize provides a more effective incentive for richer individuals than three smaller prizes.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews in its series Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics with number 200715.

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Date of creation: 15 Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:san:wpecon:0715
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  1. David Schmidt & Robert S. Shupp & James Walker, 2005. "Resource Allocation Contests: Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 200506, Ball State University, Department of Economics, revised Feb 2005.
  2. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782, May.
  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.
  4. Henrik Orzen, 2008. "Fundraising through Competition: Evidence from the Lab," Discussion Papers 2008-11, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  5. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  6. Marco Faravelli, 2008. "The Important Thing Is not (Always) Winning but Taking Part: Funding Public Goods with Contests," CRIEFF Discussion Papers 0802, Centre for Research into Industry, Enterprise, Finance and the Firm.
  7. Glazer, Amihai & Hassin, Refael, 1988. "Optimal Contests," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(1), pages 133-43, January.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Szymanski, Stefan & Valletti, Tommaso M., 2005. "Incentive effects of second prizes," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 467-481, June.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
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