The Ponds Dilemma

J Morgan, Dana Sisak, F Várdy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Is it better to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? To find out, we study self-selection into contests. Our simple model predicts that: 1) entry into the big pond–in terms of show-up fees, number or value of prizes–is non-monotonic in ability; 2) entry into the more meritocratic pond is likewise non-monotonic, exhibiting two interior extrema and disproportionately attracting very low ability types; and 3) changes in rewards can produce unexpected effects. E.g., higher show-up fees may lower entry, while higher prizes or more meritocracy may lower the average ability of entrants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1634-1682
Number of pages49
JournalThe Economic Journal
Issue number611
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2017

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