February 18, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 10

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    Roundtable plans symposium on winner-take-all phenomenon

    By Jennifer Vanasco
    News Office

    It is called the “winner-take-all” phenomenon: students graduating from top-tier schools earn substantially more than their counterparts at second-tier schools; universities engage in bidding wars over a small group of faculty; a tiny number of companies recruit the brightest minds.

    “This is a relatively straight-forward theory with hidden aspects that affect society on so many different levels, from the entertainment industry to education and business,” said Robert Peterson, editor of The University of Chicago Law School Roundtable and organizer of the upcoming symposium, The Wages of Stardom: Law and the Winner-Take-All-Society.

    “Robert Frank, professor at Cornell University, explains winner-take-all as a self-reinforcing feedback loop. For example, because of their reputations, top schools such as Chicago can recruit top students and faculty, which further solidifies their reputations,” said Peterson.

    During the symposium, Frank, along with Cass Sunstein, the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, will explain why this winner-take-all, or superstar phenomenon poses a threat that may need government intervention.

    The symposium, sponsored by Roundtable, will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, in the Weymouth Kirkland Courtroom at the Law School. The panel is free and open to the public.

    The other panelists, Sherwin Rosen, the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, and Kevin Murphy, the George Pratt Shultz Professor in the Graduate School of Business, believe the free market generally can take care of any distortions the winner-take-all phenomenon might cause.

    “We hope to generate a lively debate between these two sides,” Peterson said.