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Is the positional bias an artefact? Distinguishing positional concerns from egalitarian concerns

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  • Celse, Jérémy

Abstract

This paper shows that the positional bias underscored by Solnick and Hemenway (1998, 2005, 2007) is an experimental artifact. Quoted authors highlighted the importance of positional concerns by finding that people prefer to earn a fewer absolute amount of income but to earn a higher income than others. Why do people prefer to earn more than others? The proposed explanation is that people have a preference for status. This conclusion might be wrong due to their particular design. We conjecture that subjects, by indicating to prefer a state of the world in which they earn more than others, in reality signal a preference for equality. We replicated the same design as in Solnick and Hemenway (1998, 2005, 2007) and added a new option so as to disentangle positional concerns from egalitarian ones. We observe that most subjects express egalitarian preferences rather than positional ones.

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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): 41 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 277-283

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Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:41:y:2012:i:3:p:277-283

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

Related research

Keywords: Relative standing; Positional concern; Egalitarian concern; Envy; Status; Survey;

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References

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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Thorstein Veblen, 1909. "The Limitations of Marginal Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17, pages 620.
  3. J. Solnick, Sara & Hemenway, David, 1998. "Is more always better?: A survey on positional concerns," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 373-383, November.
  4. Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Martinsson, Peter, 2003. "Do You Enjoy Having More Than Others? Survey Evidence of Positional Goods," Working Papers in Economics 100, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  5. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-16, March.
  6. Jérémy Celse, 2010. "Sketching Envy from Philosophy to Psychology," Working Papers 10-22, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier, revised 2010.
  7. Veblen, Thorstein, 1909. "The Limitations of Marginal Utility," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 17.
  8. Solnick, Sara J. & Hong, Li & Hemenway, David, 2007. "Positional goods in the United States and China," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 537-545, August.
  9. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Xavier Ramos, 2010. "Inequality Aversion and Risk Attitudes," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 271, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  10. Sara J. Solnick & David Hemenway, 2005. "Are Positional Concerns Stronger in Some Domains than in Others?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 147-151, May.
  11. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  12. Luuk Van Kempen, 2003. "Fooling the eye of the beholder: deceptive status signalling among the poor in developing countries," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(2), pages 157-177.
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Cited by:
  1. Grolleau, Gilles & Ibanez, Lisette & Mzoughi, Naoufel, 2012. "Being the best or doing the right thing? An investigation of positional, prosocial and conformist preferences in provision of public goods," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 705-711.

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