The Lower-Bid Bias in Public Procurement

Posted: 28 May 2013

See all articles by Omer Dekel

Omer Dekel

Ramat Gan Center of Law and Business

Amos Schurr

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Date Written: May 27, 2013


Competitive bidding (CB) is the dominant governmental contracting mechanism by which hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated annually. We claim that when bid evaluators assess the qualitative components of competing bids while being exposed to the bid prices, a systematic bias occurs that gives an unjust advantage to the lower bidder. We term this the Lower-Bid Bias. It is then shown that this bias can be neutralized by splitting the evaluation process into two stages, whereby bid price is revealed only after the evaluation process has culminated (two-stage CB). This is demonstrated through the findings of a survey and two controlled experiments, the first to be conducted with procurement officials. We also explain why this bias is undesirable and suggest a mandatory rule, requiring two-stage CB for any competitive public procurement based on evaluation criteria other than price. Further applications of the experiments' findings are also discussed.

Keywords: cognitive bias, public auction, bid, bidding, government contracts, decision making, public procurement

JEL Classification: D44, D73, H57, K23, L51

Suggested Citation

Dekel, Omer and Schurr, Amos, The Lower-Bid Bias in Public Procurement (May 27, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Omer Dekel (Contact Author)

Ramat Gan Center of Law and Business ( email )

26 Ben Gurion Ave. Ramat Gan
POB 852 Bnei Brak
Ramat Gan, 51108

Amos Schurr

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

1 Ben-Gurion Blvd
Beer-Sheba 84105, 84105

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