Discussion paper

DP6770 Carrots and Sticks: Prizes and Punishments in Contests

We study optimal contest design in situations where the designer can reward high performance agents with positive prizes and punish low performance agents with negative prizes. We link the optimal prize structure to the curvature of distribution of abilities in the population. In particular, we identify conditions under which, even if punishment is costly, punishing the bottom is more effective than rewarding the top in eliciting effort input. If punishment is costless, we study the optimal number of punishments in the contest.


Moldovanu, B, A Sela and X Shi (2008), ‘DP6770 Carrots and Sticks: Prizes and Punishments in Contests‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 6770. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp6770