Ron Siegel
Associate Professor

Department of Economics
The Pennsylvania State University

Google Scholar Profile
Research Interests

Microeconomic Theory, Industrial Organization, Bounded Rationality

Contact Information

Mailing address:

Department of Economics
The Pennsylvania State University
303 Kern Building
University Park, PA, 16802

My office is Room 412 in Kern

Phone: 814-863-4994

Working Papers

1. On the Design of Criminal Trials: the Benefit of Three-Verdict Systems,” with Bruno Strulovici.

We propose adding a third, intermediate, verdict to the two-verdict system used in criminal trials. We show that the additional verdict can be used to distinguish between convicted defendants, based on the residual doubt regarding their guilt at the end of the trial, in a way that improves welfare and does not increase the set of innocent defendants who are wrongly convicted. It can also be guaranteed that wrongfully convicted defendants do not serve longer sentences, provided that the sentence in the two-verdict system was not too inefficiently low. Since even acquitted defendants may face a social stigma, we also consider using the additional verdict to distinguish between acquitted defendants, and provide conditions under which this improves welfare. Generalizations to multi-verdict systems with a larger number of verdicts are also explored. We also consider plea bargains, and show that a properly chosen plea in a two-verdict system leads to higher welfare than any multi-verdict system, and is in fact the optimal mechanism. Finally, we consider the impact of multiple verdicts on the incentives to gather evidence, and show that the effect is generally positive.


2. Contracts with Framing,” with Yuval Salant.

We develop a theory of contracts with frames. Frames are used by a contract designer to affect how an agent evaluates various options in the contract. The effect of the frame is not persistent, and the agent can renege on the contract after the effect wears off. We observe that framing does not increase the designer's profit when the agent does not have private information or when framing decreases the agent's willingness to pay. Framing increases profit when it increases willingness to pay in a way that does not distort incentives too much. We characterize the profit-maximizing contract in specific environments, and study applications to price discrimination, insurance, and auctions.


Published and Forthcoming Papers

3. Large Contests,” with Wojciech Olszewski. Econometrica, forthcoming.

 Online Appendix

We consider contests with many, possibly heterogeneous, players and prizes that include many existing contest models as special cases. We show that the equilibria of such contests are approximated by an appropriately defined set of incentive-compatible individually-rational single-agent mechanisms. This approach makes it possible to approximate the equilibria of contests whose exact equilibrium characterization is complicated, as well as the equilibria of contests for which there is no existing equilibrium characterization.


4. Reallocation Costs and Efficiency,” with Yuval Salant. American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, forthcoming.

We study the efficient allocation of a divisible asset when reallocation is costly. Two players initially divide an asset between them. At the time of this initial division the players’ valuations for the asset are uncertain. After the uncertainty resolves, costly reallocation may take place. We first establish that the surplus associated with efficient reallocation monotonically increases or decreases in the concentration of the initial division for a wide range of cost specifications. We then characterize how the budget necessary to implement the efficient reallocation changes with the initial division.


5. Asymmetric All-Pay Auctions with Interdependent Valuations.” Journal of Economic Theory, September 2014, 153, 684-702.

 Online Appendix, Matlab implementation for general distributions, Matlab implementation for independent distributions, Matlab examples with independent distributions.

I show that a unique equilibrium exists in an asymmetric two-player all-pay auction with a discrete signal structure, correlated signals, and interdependent valuations. The proof is constructive, and the construction can be implemented as a computer program and be used to derive comparative statics. I also characterize the set of equilibria when a reserve price is introduced.


6. Asymmetric Contests with Head Starts and Non-Monotonic Costs.” American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, August 2014, 6(3), 59-105.

 Online Appendix, Matlab implementation of all-pay auctions with head starts, Matlab examples.

This paper studies equilibrium behavior in a class of games that models asymmetric multiprize competitions in which players’ costs need not be strictly increasing in their performance. Such costs accommodate various types of asymmetries, including head starts. Head starts capture incumbency advantages, prior investments, and technological differences. I provide an algorithm that constructs the unique equilibrium in which players do not choose weakly-dominated strategies, and apply it to study multiprize all-pay auctionswith head starts. A comparison to the standard all-pay auction shows that the strategic effects of head starts differ substantially from those of differing valuations.


7. Contests with Productive Effort.” International Journal of Game Theory, August 2014, 43(3), 515-523.

I consider competitions in which, conditional on winning or losing, the effort exerted by a competitor does not necessarily decrease his payoff. This happens, for example, in competitions for promotions in which workers are intrinsically motivated, and in research and development races in which better performance implies a higher payoff from winning. I characterize players’ equilibrium payoffs in closed form, thereby generalizing Siegel’s (2009) payoff result to contests in which players’ payoff functions are non-monotonic.


8. Matching and Price Competition: Beyond Symmetric Linear Costs,” with Julio Gonzalez-Diaz. International Journal of Game Theory, November 2013, 42(4), 835–844.

Bulow and Levin’s (2006) “Matching and Price Competition” studies a matching model in which hospitals compete for interns by offering wages. We relax the assumption of symmetric linear costs and compare the pricing equilibrium that results to the firm-optimal competitive equilibrium. With linear and asymmetric costs, competition in the pricing equilibrium may not be localized, but all other qualitative comparisons of Bulow and Levin (2006) hold. With non-linear and symmetric costs workers’ average utility in the pricing equilibrium may be higher than in the firm-optimal competitive equilibrium. With asymmetric and non-linear costs, firms need not choose scores from an interval in a pricing equilibrium, which may make competition even less localized..


9. Adverse Selection and Unraveling in Common-Value Labor Markets,” with Jeffrey Ely. Theoretical Economics, September 2013, 8(3), 801–827.

We investigate a common-value labor setting in which firms interview a worker prior to hiring. When firms have private information about the worker’s value and interview decisions are kept private, many firms may enter the market, interview, and hire with positive probability. When firms’ interview decisions are revealed, severe adverse selection arises. As a result, all firms except for the highest-ranked firm are excluded from the hiring process.


10. Participation in Deterministic Contests.” Economics Letters, September 2012, 116(3), 588-592.

This paper considers participation in deterministic contests for multiple identical prizes, which employ an auction-like rule to determine the winners. In most papers that investigate such models, participation by precisely m+1 players is associated with players having complete information about their opponents’ characteristics, and participation by more than m+1 players is associated with players having incomplete information about their opponents’ characteristics. I show that incomplete information is in fact neither sufficient nor necessary for participation by more than m+1 players.


11. Asymmetric Contests with Conditional Investments.” American Economic Review, December 2010, 100(5), 2230-2260.

This paper studies equilibrium behavior in a class of games that models asymmetric competitions with unconditional and conditional investments. Such competitions include lobbying settings, labor-market tournaments, and R&D races, among others. I provide an algorithm that constructsthe unique equilibrium in these games and apply it to study competitions in which a fraction of each competitor’s investment is sunk and the rest is paid only by the winners. Complete-information all-pay auctions are a special case.


12. All-Pay Contests.” Econometrica, January 2009, 77(1), 71-92.

This paper studies a class of games, “all-pay contests,” which capture general asymmetries and sunk investments inherent in scenarios such as lobbying, competition for market power, labor-market tournaments, and R&D races. Players compete for one of several identical prizes by choosing a score. Conditional on winning or losing, it is weakly better to do so with a lower score. This formulation allows for differing production technologies, costs of capital, prior investments, attitudes toward risk, and conditional and unconditional investments, among others. I provide a closed-form formula for players’ equilibrium payoffs and analyze player participation. A special case of contests is multiprize, complete-information all-pay auctions.