HKS Authors

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Money is the prime incentive considered in economic models. However, recent evidence indicates that people are also greatly concerned about their social rankings. Is this solely because rank brings tangible benefits, or because in addition people have an inherent preference for high rank? This paper deployed a field experiment that provides evidence for an inherent preference. In the experiment, Vietnamese students enrolled in an English course performed significantly better on the official standardized international final test when they were told their rankings on practice tests than when they were not. This result held even when this ranking information could not be reliably communicated, thus severely attenuating the potential to bring tangible or status benefits.


Tran, Anh, and Richard Zeckhauser. "Rank as an Inherent Incentive: Evidence from a Field Experiment." Journal of Public Economics 96.9-10 (October 2012): 645–650.