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When in Rome: conformity and the provision of public goods

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  • Carpenter, Jeffrey P.

Abstract

We ask whether conformity, copying the most observed behavior in a population, can affect free riding in a public goods situation. Our model suggests that, if free riding is sufficiently frequent at the start of a public goods game, conformity will increase the growth rate of free riding. We confirm this prediction in the experimental lab by showing that more free riding occurs when players have information about the distribution of contributions than when players know only the aggregate contribution level. As a stricter test, we econometrically estimate the dynamic on which the model is based and find that, controlling for the payoff incentive to free ride, players react significantly to the number of free riders in their groups. Further, conformity is significantly stronger when players have more information about the choices of others.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics).

Volume (Year): 33 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 395-408

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Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:33:y:2004:i:4:p:395-408

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/620175

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  1. Jeffrey Carpenter & Peter Hans Matthews, 2003. "No Switchbacks: Rethinking Aspiration-Based Dynamics in the Ultimatum Game," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0218r, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
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  8. repec:att:wimass:9309 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Croson, Rachel & Marks, Melanie, 2001. "The Effect of Recommended Contributions in the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 238-49, April.
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  21. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter & Ernst Fehr, . "Are People Conditionally Cooperative? Evidence from a Public Goods Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 016, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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  25. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
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