Working Paper, University of Massachusetts, Department of Economics 2009-04
Contest success functions, which show how probabilities of winning depend on resources devoted to a conflict, have been widely used in the literature addressing appropriative activities (economics), international and civil wars (political science), and group conflict and selection (evolutionary biology). Two well-known forms of contest success functions predict contest outcomes from the difference between the resources of each side and from the ratio of resources. The analytical properties of a given conflict model, such as the existence of equilibrium, can be drastically changed simply by altering the form of the contest success function. Despite this problem, there is no consensus about which form is analytically better or empirically more plausible. In this paper we propose an integrated form of contest success functions, which has the ratio form and the difference form as limiting cases, and study the analytical properties of this function. We also estimate different contest success functions to see which form is more empirically probable, using data from battles fought in seventeenth-century Europe and during World War II.