I recently came across the paper: ‘“Last-Place Aversion”: Evidence and Redistributive Implications‘, published recently in Quarterly Journal of Economics. The headline result poses a nice analogous hypothesis for sports leagues: do teams close to the bottom of the standings increase their effort so as not to finish last (presuming no perverse incentive to finish bottom, such as top draft pick)? Correspondence I had with the lead author, Ilyana Kuziemko, confirmed that this could be an interesting field experiment to follow their lab-setting results – she said that her and her collaborators had thought of using sports data, but noted that of the leagues that they look at, draft and/or promotion/relegation pose obvious problems.
I can think of leagues where neither of these policies act as a fly in the ointment. Is there anyone out there in the sports economics community interested in teaming up with me on this one?