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Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments

  • Dirk Engelmann
  • Martin Strobel

We present simple one-shot distribution experiments comparing the relative importance of efficiency concerns, maximin preferences, and inequality aversion, as well as the relative performance of the fairness theories by Gary E Bolton and Axel Ockenfels and by Ernst Fehr and Klaus M. Schmidt. While the Fehr-Schmidt theory performs better in a direct comparison, this appears to be due to being in line with maximin preferences. More importantly, we find that a combination of efficiency concerns, maximin preferences, and selfishness can rationalize most of the data while the Bolton-Ockenfels and Fehr-Schmidt theories are unable to explain important patterns.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 94 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 857-869

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:94:y:2004:i:4:p:857-869
Note: DOI: 10.1257/0002828042002741
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  1. Falk, Armin & Fischbacher, Urs, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3014, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  3. Charness, Gary B & Grosskopf, Brit, 2000. "Relative Payoffs And Happiness: An Experimental Study," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt8389x8z2, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  4. 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).
  5. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
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  12. Blount, Sally, 1995. "When Social Outcomes Aren't Fair: The Effect of Causal Attributions on Preferences," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 131-144, August.
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  17. 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.
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