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Anna Gunnthorsdottir and Douglas A. Norton
Anna Gunnthorsdottir, Roumen Vragov and Jianfei Shen
Purpose and approach – We examine theoretically and experimentally how unequal abilities to contribute affect incentives and efficiency when players compete for membership…
Purpose and approach – We examine theoretically and experimentally how unequal abilities to contribute affect incentives and efficiency when players compete for membership in stratified groups based on the contributions they make. Players have either a low or a high endowment. Once assigned to a group based on their group contribution, players share equally in their group’s collective output. Depending on the parameters, the mechanism has several distinct equilibria that differ in efficiency.
Findings – Somewhat counter to conventional expectation our theoretical analysis indicates that as long as certain assumptions are satisfied, efficiency increases rather than decreases the more abilities to contribute differ. The analysis also suggests various follow-up experiments about equilibrium selection, tacit coordination, and the effect of unequal abilities in systems with endogenous grouping. We conduct an experiment that shows that subjects tacitly coordinate the mechanism’s asymmetric payoff-dominant equilibrium with precision; this precision is robust to a change in the structure and complexity of the game.
Implications – The results suggest that people respond to merit-based grouping in a natural way and that competitive contribution-based grouping encourages public contributions even when abilities to contribute differ, which is the case in all communities and societies.