Sequential Teamwork in Competitive Environments: Theory and Evidence from Swimming Data

The aim of the paper is to assess whether there is free-riding in teams when team production is sequential and when there is competition between teams. This a common case, which, however, has not been considered in the literature so far. We develop a model where team members contributing earlier have an incentive to free-ride more even when there is competition between teams. These predictions are tested on more than 300.000 observations on swimmers’ performance at competitions from all over the world. We find that swimmers in relays perform weaker as compared to their individual performance, and that earlier swimmers’ performance in relays is weaker relative_x000d_ to later swimmers. Our results suggest that competition does not solve the free-riding problem in team production with sequential contributions.