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Punishment, inequality, and welfare: a public good experiment

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  • David Masclet

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  • Marie-Claire Villeval

Abstract

This paper reports the results of an experiment that investigates the relationships between inequality and punishment. In particular, we analyze how inter-personal comparisons affect altruistic punishment behavior. In addition, we examine how punishment affects inequality over time. We compare two treatments of a two-stage public good game, one in which costly punishment reduces the immediate payoff inequality between the punisher and the target, and one in which it does not affect the current level of inequality. Our results indicate that subjects punish even when they cannot alter the current distribution of payoffs. We find however that in both treatments, the intensity of punishment increases in the level of inequality. Finally, despite its cost, we show that punishment improves welfare in association with a decrease in the level of inequality over time.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Social Choice and Welfare.

Volume (Year): 31 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (October)
Pages: 475-502

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Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:31:y:2008:i:3:p:475-502

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References

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  15. Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2007. "Punishing free-riders: How group size affects mutual monitoring and the provision of public goods," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 31-51, July.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Falk, Armin & Meier, Stephan & Zehnder, Christian, 2010. "Did We Overestimate the Role of Social Preferences? The Case of Self-Selected Student Samples," CEPR Discussion Papers 8019, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Charness, Gary & Masclet, David & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2013. "The Dark Side of Competition for Status," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt3858888w, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  3. Clark, Andrew E. & D'Ambrosio, Conchita, 2014. "Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 8136, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Simon Gaechter & Benedikt Herrmann, 2008. "Reciprocity, culture, and human cooperation: Previous insights and a new cross-cultural experiment," Discussion Papers, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham 2008-14, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  5. Ernesto Reuben & Arno Riedl, 2009. "Enforcement of Contribution Norms in Public Good Games with Heterogeneous Populations," CESifo Working Paper Series 2725, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Franziska Barmettler & Ernst Fehr & Christian Zehnder, 2011. "Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory," ECON - Working Papers, Department of Economics - University of Zurich 027, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  7. Christoph Engel, 2013. "Deterrence by Imperfect Sanctions – A Public Good Experiment," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2013_09, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  8. Haoran He & Marie Claire Villeval, 2014. "Are teams less inequality averse than individuals ?," Working Papers, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure 1417, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  9. Oechssler, Jörg, 2011. "Finitely repeated games with social preferences," Working Papers 0515, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
  10. Daniele Nosenzo & Martin Sefton, 2012. "Promoting Cooperation: the Distribution of Reward and Punishment Power," Discussion Papers, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham 2012-08, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  11. Christian Thöni, 2014. "Inequality aversion and antisocial punishment," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 76(4), pages 529-545, April.

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