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The Optimal Allocation of Prizes in Contests

  • Moldovanu, Benny

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Mannheim, Germany)

  • Sela, Aner

    ()

    (Ben Gurion University)

We study a contest with multiple (not necessarily equal) prizes. Contestants have private information about an ability parameter that affects their costs of bidding. The contestant with the highest bid wins the first prize, the contestant with the second-highest bid wins the second prize, and so on until all the prizes are allocated. All contestants incur their respective costs of bidding. The contest's designer maximizes the expected sum of bids. Our main results are: 1) We display bidding equlibria for any number of contestants having linear, convex or concave cost functions, and for any distribution of abilities. 2) If the cost functions are linear or concave, then, no matter what the distribution of abilities is, it is optimal for the designer to allocate the entire prize sum to a single ''first'' prize. 3) We give a necessary and sufficient conditions ensuring that several prizes are optimal if contestants have a convex cost function.

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Paper provided by Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universit├Ąt Mannheim & Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim in its series Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications with number 99-75.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 14 Jul 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:xrs:sfbmaa:99-75
Note: We wish to thank Karsten Fieseler, Martin Hellwig, Roman Inderst, Philippe Jehiel, Holger Mueller, Georg Noeldeke and Jan Vleugels for helpful comments. Both authors are grateful for financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, SFB 504, at the University of Mannheim.
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  1. Wright, Brian Davern, 1983. "The Economics of Invention Incentives: Patents, Prizes, and Research Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 691-707, September.
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  5. 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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  9. Robert Wilson, 1979. "Auctions of Shares," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(4), pages 675-689.
  10. Taylor, Curtis R, 1995. "Digging for Golden Carrots: An Analysis of Research Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 872-90, September.
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  16. Lizzeri, Alessandro & Persico, Nicola, 2000. "Uniqueness and Existence of Equilibrium in Auctions with a Reserve Price," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 83-114, January.
  17. Broecker, Thorsten, 1990. "Credit-Worthiness Tests and Interbank Competition," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(2), pages 429-52, March.
  18. Richard L. Fullerton & R. Preston McAfee, 1999. "Auctioning Entry into Tournaments," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(3), pages 573-605, June.
  19. Sherwin Rosen, 1985. "Prizes and Incentives in Elimination Tournaments," NBER Working Papers 1668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. 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.
  22. Baye, Michael R. & Kovenock, Dan & de Vries, Casper G., 1992. "It takes two to tango: Equilibria in a model of sales," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 493-510, October.
  23. Bulow, Jeremy & Klemperer, Paul, 1996. "Auctions versus Negotiations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 180-94, March.
  24. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-59, September.
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