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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, ECONOMICS AND FINANCE (oxfordre.com/economics). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 03 June 2020

Summary and Keywords

Competitive situations resembling contests are ubiquitous in modern economic landscape. In a contest, economic agents expend costly effort to vie for limited prizes, and they are rewarded for “getting ahead” of their opponents instead of their absolute performance metrics. Many social, economic, and business phenomena exemplify such competitive schemes, ranging from college admissions, political campaigns, advertising, and organizational hierarchies, to warfare. The economics literature has long recognized contest/tournament as a convenient and efficient incentive scheme to remedy the moral hazard problem, especially when the production process is subject to random perturbation or the measurement of input/output is imprecise or costly. An enormous amount of scholarly effort has been devoted to developing tractable theoretical models, unveiling the fundamentals of the strategic interactions that underlie such competitions, and exploring the optimal design of contest rules. This voluminous literature has enriched basic contest/tournament models by introducing different variations to the modeling, such as dynamic structure, incomplete and asymmetric information, multi-battle confrontations, sorting and entry, endogenous prize allocation, competitions in groups, contestants with alternative risk attitude, among other things.

Keywords: contests, tournaments, all-pay auctions, moral hazard, incentives, efforts, contest design

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