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Moving on up: The impact of income mobility on antisocial behaviour

Author

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  • Gangadharan, Lata
  • Grossman, Philip J.
  • Vecci, Joe

Abstract

While the causes for upward income mobility receive considerable attention, the behavioural impact of the prospect of income mobility has been largely overlooked. We design an experiment and a survey to investigate if the prospect of income mobility influences antisocial behaviour. In the experiment, subjects can, at a cost, reduce others’ payoffs and low-income subjects can move up the income distribution. We find that antisocial behaviour occurs more frequently when mobility is not possible. High-income subjects benefit most from the prospect of upward mobility as they are less likely to encounter antisocial behaviour relative to the immobility setting. Mobility by means of effort has lower rates of antisocial behaviour relative to mobility through luck. This is particularly true for low-income individuals who are less likely to engage in antisocial behaviour when mobility occurs through effort. A large majority of survey respondents believe that mobility will decrease antisocial behaviour, predominantly because an environment where it is possible to move up is considered fairer.

Suggested Citation

  • Gangadharan, Lata & Grossman, Philip J. & Vecci, Joe, 2021. "Moving on up: The impact of income mobility on antisocial behaviour," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 134(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:134:y:2021:i:c:s0014292121000398
    DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2021.103686
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income inequality; Prospect of upward mobility (POUM); Antisocial behaviour; Experiment; Survey; Luck versus effort;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics

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