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Fairness vs. Social Welfare in Experimental Decisions

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  • Stefan Kohler

Abstract

Experimental evidence from modified dictator games and simple choice situations indicates that concern for overall welfare is an important motive in human decision making. Models of inequality averse agents, as suggested by Fehr and Schmidt (1999) or Bolton and Ockenfels (2000), fall short in explaining behavior of proposers, who reduce their payoff below a fair split of the endowment to maximize social welfare, while other types of social preferences do well on these data. This has created the impression that inequality aversion is a misguided concept. This paper presents a formal model and shows that a combination of welfare concern and inequality aversion changes this result in favor of inequality aversion. It also establishes a unique link between altruism and social welfare in the proposed model.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2005/11.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2005/11

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Keywords: Social Preferences; Inequality Aversion; Welfare Concern; Reciprocity;

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References

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  1. Joseph Henrich, 2001. "In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 73-78, May.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory Of Fairness, Competition, And Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868, August.
  3. Dufwenberg, M. & Kirchsteiger, G., 1998. "A Theory of Sequential Reciprocity," Discussion Paper 1998-37, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
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  5. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
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  7. Pollak, Robert A, 1976. "Interdependent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(3), pages 309-20, June.
  8. Cox, J. & Friedman, D. & Gjerstad, S., 2006. "A Trackable Model of Reciprocity and Fairness," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1181, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
  9. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-93, Nov.-Dec..
  10. Cox, James C. & Friedman, Daniel & Sadiraj, Vjollca, 2009. "Revealed Altruism," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt6rb5t4mc, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  11. Guth, Werner & Kliemt, Hartmut & Ockenfels, Axel, 2003. "Fairness versus efficiency: An experimental study of (mutual) gift giving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 465-475, April.
  12. G. Bolton, 2010. "A comparative model of bargaining: theory and evidence," Levine's Working Paper Archive 263, David K. Levine.
  13. Engelmann,Dirk & Strobel,Martin, 2002. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," Research Memorandum 015, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  14. 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.
  15. Smith, Vernon L., 2010. "Theory and experiment: What are the questions?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 3-15, January.
  16. Geanakoplos, John & Pearce, David & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1989. "Psychological games and sequential rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 60-79, March.
  17. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  18. Tan, Jonathan H.W., 2006. "Religion and social preferences: An experimental study," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 60-67, January.
  19. 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.
  20. Oechssler, Jörg, 2009. "Searching beyond the lamppost: Let’s focus on economically relevant questions," Working Papers 0486, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
  21. Hochman, Harold M & Rodgers, James D, 1969. "Pareto Optimal Redistribution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(4), pages 542-57, Part I Se.
  22. Kritikos, Alexander & Bolle, Friedel, 2001. "Distributional concerns: equity- or efficiency-oriented?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 333-338, December.
  23. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Aurélie Bonein, 2006. "An empirical study of determinants in decision-making process," Working Papers 06-10, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier, revised Oct 2006.
  2. Breitmoser, Yves & Tan, Jonathan H.W., 2011. "Ultimata bargaining: generosity without social motives," MPRA Paper 33613, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Christian Thoeni & Simon Gaechter, 2011. "Peer Effects and Social Preferences in Voluntary Cooperation," Discussion Papers 2011-09, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  4. Stefan Kohler, 2006. "Inequality Aversion and Stochastic Decision-making: Experimental Evidence from Zimbabwean Villages after Land Reform," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-061, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  5. Kohler, Stefan, 2012. "Guilt causes equal or unequal division in alternating-offer bargaining," MPRA Paper 40760, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Breitmoser, Yves & Tan, Jonathan H.W., 2013. "Reference dependent altruism in demand bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 127-140.
  7. Stefan Kohler, 2012. "Incomplete Information about Social Preferences Explains Equal Division and Delay in Bargaining," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(3), pages 119-137, September.
  8. Christian Thöni & Simon Gaechter, 2014. "Peer Effects and Social Preferences in Voluntary Cooperation," CESifo Working Paper Series 4741, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Kohler, Stefan, 2013. "Inequality aversion causes equal or unequal division in alternating-offer bargaining," MPRA Paper 40764, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Simon Gächter & Christian Thöni, 2014. "Peer effects and social preferences in voluntary cooperation," Discussion Papers 2014-03, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  11. Pelligra, Vittorio & Stanca, Luca, 2013. "To give or not to give? Equity, efficiency and altruistic behavior in an artefactual field experiment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 1-9.
  12. Kohler, Stefan, 2012. "Envy can promote more equal division in alternating-offer bargaining," MPRA Paper 40761, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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