Experimental Economics

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 285–305

Costless discrimination and unequal achievements in an experimental tournament


DOI: 10.1007/s10683-012-9334-8

Cite this article as:
Filippin, A. & Guala, F. Exp Econ (2013) 16: 285. doi:10.1007/s10683-012-9334-8


We investigate the emergence of discrimination in an experiment where individuals affiliated to different groups compete for a monetary prize, submitting independent bids to an auctioneer. The auctioneer receives perfect information about the bids (there is no statistical discrimination), and she has no monetary incentive to favor the members of her own group (the bidders are symmetric). We observe nonetheless some discrimination by auctioneers, who tend to assign the prize more frequently to a member of their own group when two or more players put forward the highest bid. Out-group bidders react to this bias and reduce significantly their bids, causing an average decay of their earnings throughout the game, with cumulative effects that generate unequal outcomes. Because the initial bias is costless, such mechanism can survive even in a competitive market, providing a rationale for the long-run persistence of discrimination.


Discrimination Tournament Groups Experiment 

JEL Classification

J71 D44 C9 

Supplementary material

10683_2012_9334_MOESM1_ESM.doc (173 kb)
Average bidding patterns in each independent sub-group. (DOC 173 kB)
10683_2012_9334_MOESM2_ESM.doc (226 kb)
Experimental instructions. (DOC 226 kB)

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative MethodsUniversità Degli Studi di MilanoMilanoItaly

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