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Political Economists are Neither Selfish Nor Indoctrinated

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  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Stephan Meier

Abstract

Most professional economists believe that economists in general are more selfish than other persons and that this greater selfishness is due to economics education. This paper offers empirical evidence against this widely held belief. Using a unique data set about giving behavior in connection with two social funds at the University of Zurich, it is shown that economics education does not make people act more selfishly. Rather, this natural experiment suggests that the particular behavior of economists can be explained by a selection effect.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 490.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_490

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Keywords: economists; public good; giving behavior; education; selection;

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References

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  1. Stephanie Seguino & Thomas Stevens & Mark Lutz, 1996. "Gender and cooperative behavior: economic man rides alone," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 2(1), pages 1-21.
  2. Andreoni,J., 2004. "Philantropy," Working papers, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems 7, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  3. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1999. " Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 431-46, March.
  4. Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 15-25, 01-02.
  5. David Laband & Richard Biel, 1999. "Are economists more selfish than other `social' scientists?," Artefactual Field Experiments, The Field Experiments Website 00076, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Frank, Bjorn & Schulze, Gunther G., 2000. "Does economics make citizens corrupt?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 101-113, September.
  7. Bram Cadsby, C. & Maynes, Elizabeth, 1998. "Gender and free riding in a threshold public goods game: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 603-620, March.
  8. Eichenberger, Reiner & Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, 1998. " Rational Moralists: The Role of Fairness in Democratic Economic Politics," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 94(1-2), pages 191-210, January.
  9. Robert H. Frank & Thomas Gilovich & Dennis T. Regan, 1993. "Does Studying Economics Inhibit Cooperation?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 159-171, Spring.
  10. Robert H. Frank & Thomas D. Gilovich & Dennis T. Regan, 1996. "Do Economists Make Bad Citizens?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 187-192, Winter.
  11. Stanley, T. D. & Tran, Ume, 1998. "Economics students need not be greedy: Fairness and the ultimatum game," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 657-663.
  12. Selten, Reinhard & Ockenfels, Axel, 1998. "An experimental solidarity game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 517-539, March.
  13. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
  14. Gregory Brunk, 1980. "The impact of rational participation models on voting attitudes," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 35(5), pages 549-564, January.
  15. Bruno S. Frey & Iris Bohnet, 1999. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 335-339, March.
  16. Blais, Andre & Young, Robert, 1999. " Why Do People Vote? An Experiment in Rationality," Public Choice, Springer, Springer, vol. 99(1-2), pages 39-55, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Aleksander Berentsen & Guillaume Rocheteau, . "Money and the Gains from Trade," IEW - Working Papers 100, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Reto Foellmi & Urs Meister, 2004. "Product-Market Competition in the Water Industry: Voluntary Nondiscriminatory Pricing," Working Papers, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU) 0032, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU).
  3. Aleksander Berentsen & Guillaume Rocheteau, 2004. "Money and Information," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(4), pages 915-944, October.
  4. Aleksander Berentsen & Guillaume Rocheteau, . "On the Efficiency of Monetary Exchange:How Divisibility of Money Matters," IEW - Working Papers 101, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Dufwenberg, Martin & Muren, Astri, 2002. "Discrimination by Gender and Social Distance," Research Papers in Economics, Stockholm University, Department of Economics 2002:2, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
  6. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, . "Two Concerns about Rational Choice: Indoctrination and Imperialism," IEW - Working Papers 104, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.

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