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Altruism in the (Social) Network

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  • Brañas Garza, Pablo
  • Espinosa Alejos, María Paz
  • Cobo Reyes, Ramón
  • Jiménez, Natalia
  • Ponti, Giovanni

Abstract

This paper explores the role of social integration on altruistic behavior. To this aim, we develop a two-stage experimental protocol based on the classic Dictator Game. In the first stage, we ask a group of 77 undergraduate students in Economics to elicit their social network; in the second stage, each of them has to unilaterally decide over the division of a fixed amount of money to be shared with another anonymous member in the group. Our experimental design allows to control for other variables known to be relevant for altruistic behavior: framing and friendship/acquaintance relations. Consistently with previous research, we find that subjects favor their friends and that framing enhances altruistic behavior. Once we control for these effects, social integration (measured by betweenness, a standard centrality measure in network theory) has a positive effect on giving: the larger social isolation within the group, the more likely it is the emergence of selfish behavior. These results suggest that information on the network structure in which subjects are embedded is crucial to account for their behavior.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of the Basque Country - Department of Foundations of Economic Analysis II in its series DFAEII Working Papers with number 2006-04.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ehu:dfaeii:200604

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Postal: Dpto. de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico II, = Facultad de CC. Económicas y Empresariales, Universidad del País Vasco, Avda. Lehendakari Aguirre 83, 48015 Bilbao, Spain
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Keywords: social integration; social networks; experiments; altruism;

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References

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  19. Bruno S. Frey & Iris Bohnet, 1999. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 335-339, March.
  20. John A. List, 2007. "On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 482-493.
  21. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
  22. Eckel, Catherine C & Grossman, Philip J, 1998. "Are Women Less Selfish Than Men? Evidence from Dictator Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 726-35, May.
  23. Burnham, Terence C., 2003. "Engineering altruism: a theoretical and experimental investigation of anonymity and gift giving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 133-144, January.
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  25. Eshel, Ilan & Samuelson, Larry & Shaked, Avner, 1998. "Altruists, Egoists, and Hooligans in a Local Interaction Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 157-79, March.
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