AØKA08055U Contract Theory
The teaching in this course may be changed to be taught either fully or partly online due to COVID-19. For further information, see the course room on Absalon. The time, place and type of assessment used for the exam may also be changed due to COVID-19, and any further information will be announced under the panel “Exam”.
The course provides an introduction to contract theory. Contract theory examines the characteristics of optimal contracts when one party has certain relevant knowledge that the other party does not have.
The primary aim of the course is to introduce students to central results and insights in contract theory. An additional aim is to familiarize students with some selected examples of how contract theory can be used to study economic questions. A broader aim is that students who take the course will, by working extensively with theoretical models, acquire analytical skills that are transferable to other kinds of intellectual problems.
The course consists of two parts. In the first part, some of the basic ideas in contract theory are presented. We will, in particular, look at optimal contracts when one party has hidden information (adverse selection) or can take a hidden action (moral hazard). In the second part of the course we apply the insights obtained to a number of specific economic questions, studying some original journal articles.
In the first part we will study selected sections of chapters 2-5 of the textbook by Laffont and Martimort. Chapter 2 explains the basic idea and insights of adverse selection. Chapter 3 studies some important extensions of the basic adverse selection model: for example, environments where the agent may be of more than two “types”, which may lead to “bunching” (i.e., several types being offered the same contract). Chapter 4 explains the basic idea and insights of moral hazard, using a very stylized model with two effort levels and two possible outcomes. Chapter 5 extends this model in some interesting ways, for example: environments with a continuous effort variable, leading to a discussion of the so-called first-order approach.
The journal articles that we will study concern various topics, including managerial incentives and product market competition; regulation; and incentives for marketing agents to “missell”.
After completing the course the student is expected to be able to:
- Account for certain main ideas and results in the contract theory literature.
- Read and discuss professional journal articles that apply contract theory.
- Formulate and solve contract theory models.
- Apply the analytical techniques taught in the course.
- Use the broad analytical approach of contract theory when analyzing and thinking about questions and intellectual problems where incentives play a role.
Note: Details of the syllabus may change.
Textbook (selected parts)
Laffont, Jean-Jacques, and David Martimort (2002), The Theory of Incentives: The Principal-Agent Model, Princeton University Press.
Sections 2.1-2.6, 2.9, and 2.10 (except 2.10.2 and 2.10.3).
Sections 3.1, 3.3.1 (including introduction to 3.3) and 3.7.
Introduction to Ch. 4 (pages 145-148), Sections 4.1-4.4 up until and including Proposition 4.5 on page 161.
Sections 4.8.2 (on sharecropping) and 4.8.5 (on insurance contracts).
Section 4.5 (pages 163-167) – however, the formal model with a risk-averse agent is excluded although the discussion on page 167 is included.
Section 5.1.2. Also the discussion related to the first-order approach in Sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.3 (hence not the formal models).
Sections 5.2.1 and 5.2.2.
Preliminary list of journal articles/book chapters (typically only selected pages):
Prendergast, Canice. “The Provision of Incentives in Firms”. Journal of Economic Literature, 37(1), 1999.
Vickers, John. “Concepts of competition” Oxford Economic Papers, 47(1), 1995.
Inderst, Roman, and Marco Ottaviani. “Misselling through Agents” American Economic Review, 99(3), 2009.
Laffont, Jean-Jacques, and Jean Tirole, A Theory of Incentives in Procurement and Regulation, MIT Press, 1993 (parts of Chapter 1).
- Schmidt, Klaus M. “Managerial Incentives and Product Market Competition”. Review of Economic Studies, 64(2), 1997.
3 hours lectures every week from week 36 to 50 (except week 42).
The overall schema for the Master can be seen at KUnet:
MSc in Economics => "Courses and teaching" => "Planning and overview" => "Your timetable"
Timetable and venue:
To see the time and location of lectures please press the link under "Timetable"/"Se skema" at the right side of this page. E means Autumn.
You can find the similar information partly in English at
-Select Department: “2200-Økonomisk Institut” (and wait for respond)
-Select Module:: “2200-E20; [Name of course]”
-Select Report Type: “List – Weekdays”
-Select Period: “Efterår/Autumn – Weeks 31-5”
Press: “ View Timetable”
The students will receive collective oral feedback from the teacher and other students through actively participating in discussions and working on the assigned problem sets.
For foreign students not enrolled: Admission requirements, registration etc: Study Economics.
For gæste- og enkelfagsstuderende: Tilmelding og information via Uddannelse i Økonomi.
- 7,5 ECTS
- Type of assessment
- Written assignment, 4 hoursThe exam assignment is given in English and must be answered in English.
Due to the Corona crisis, the Board of Study has decided to change the regular exams and the re-sit exams in the autumn semester to written online take-home exams. Both exams are still individual.
During the exam, it is not allowed to communicate with others about the exam assignment nor the solution at all. It is also prohibited to distribute data regarding the solutions to anyone. If this or alike actions happens, it will be regarded as cheating and plagiarism.
Please read more at
- Exam registration requirements
There are no requirements during the course that the student has to fulfill to be able to sit the exam.
- All aids allowed
- Marking scale
- 7-point grading scale
- Censorship form
- No external censorship
for the written exam. The exam may be chosen for external censorship by random check.
- Exam period
The exam takes place:
22 January 2021
The exact time will be available in Digital Exam.
In special cases, the exam date can be changed to another day and time within the exam period.
The written reexam takes place:
22 February 2021
NOTE: If only few students register for the written re-exam, the re-exam might change to a 20 minutes online oral examination with aids, but without preparation time.
If changed to an oral exam, the date, time and place for the exam, will be informed by the Examination Office.
Information about the reexam will be available in the Digital Exam early February.
Criteria for exam assesment
Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the course.
To receive the top grade, the student must with no or only a few minor weaknesses be able to demonstrate an excellent performance displaying a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes.
In order to pass the course, the student must demonstrate familiarity with and understanding of the approach of contract theory. Moreover, the student must show ability to solve and work with models used in contract theory and ability to understand the logic behind the results.