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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. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Charness, Gary & Grosskopf, Brit, 2001. "Relative payoffs and happiness: an experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 301-328, July.
  3. Kritikos, Alexander & Bolle, Friedel, 2001. "Distributional concerns: equity- or efficiency-oriented?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 333-338, December.
  4. Georg Kirchsteiger & Martin Dufwenberg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5899, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  5. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, . "A Theory of Reciprocity," IEW - Working Papers 006, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. Bolton Gary E. & Zwick Rami, 1995. "Anonymity versus Punishment in Ultimatum Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 95-121, July.
  7. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2004. "Expressed Preferences and Behavior in Experimental Games," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt37p1s4rs, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  8. James Andreoni, 2001. "Giving According to GARP," Theory workshop papers 339, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Cox, James C., 2004. "How to identify trust and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 260-281, February.
  10. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  11. 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.
  12. Ballinger, T Parker & Wilcox, Nathaniel T, 1997. "Decisions, Error and Heterogeneity," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(443), pages 1090-1105, July.
  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. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  15. John Kagel & Katherine Wolfe, 2001. "Tests of Fairness Models Based on Equity Considerations in a Three-Person Ultimatum Game," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 203-219, December.
  16. 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.
  17. Gary Bolton, 1998. "Bargaining and Dilemma Games: From Laboratory Data Towards Theoretical Synthesis," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 257-281, December.
  18. Guth, Werner & Huck, Steffen & Muller, Wieland, 2001. "The Relevance of Equal Splits in Ultimatum Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 161-169, October.
  19. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
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