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Doing wrong to do right? Social preferences and dishonest behavior

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  • Okeke, Edward N.
  • Godlonton, Susan

Abstract

Can pro-social preferences lead to dishonest or unethical behavior? Lab evidence suggests that it can. In this paper, we document some of the first field evidence of this phenomenon. In this study, individuals were hired as field staff and tasked with distributing subsidized price vouchers following a clearly specified protocol. We find substantial deviation from the protocol, i.e., cheating. We study the mis-allocation of the vouchers to gain some insight into motivations for dishonesty. In our main result we find that the field staff were significantly more likely to allocate the higher value vouchers (those representing a greater subsidy) to the poorest beneficiaries. While we are not able to definitively establish the motivations for this observed pro-social behavior, we argue that this result is consistent with a model of social preferences and less consistent with a pure self-interest motive.

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  • Okeke, Edward N. & Godlonton, Susan, 2014. "Doing wrong to do right? Social preferences and dishonest behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 124-139.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:106:y:2014:i:c:p:124-139
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2014.06.011
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    Cited by:

    1. Laine, Tei & Silander, Tomi & Sakamoto, Kayo, 2020. "What distinguishes people who turn into tax evaders when properly incentivized from those who don’t? An experimental study using hypothetical scenarios," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 85(C).
    2. Grosch, Kerstin & Rau, Holger A., 2017. "Gender differences in honesty: The role of social value orientation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 258-267.
    3. Aksoy, Billur & Palma, Marco A., 2019. "The effects of scarcity on cheating and in-group favoritism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 100-117.
    4. Grosch, Kerstin & Rau, Holger, 2017. "Gender differences in honesty: The role of social value orientation," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 308, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    5. Billur Aksoy & Marco A. Palma, "undated". "The Effects of Scarcity on Cheating and In-Group Favoritism," Working Papers 20180918-001, Texas A&M University, Department of Economics.
    6. Ambler, Kate & Godlonton, Susan & Recalde, María P., 2021. "Follow the leader? A field experiment on social influence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 188(C), pages 1280-1297.
    7. Buckle, Georgia E. & Füllbrunn, Sascha & Luhan, Wolfgang J., 2021. "Lying for others: The impact of agency on misreporting," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 198(C).
    8. Edward N. Okeke & Amalavoyal Chari & Clement A. Adepiti, 2016. "Does Price Affect the Demand for Information about New Health Technologies? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Nigeria," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(3), pages 437-469.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Dishonesty; Altruism; Pro-social preferences;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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