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Economic incentives and social preferences: Causal evidence of non-separability

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  • Faravelli, Marco
  • Stanca, Luca

Abstract

This paper investigates the hypothesis that the objective function of economic agents is non-separable in economic incentives and social preferences. We study fixed-prize contests in a 2×2 experimental design, varying orthogonally the degree of competition of the incentive mechanism (all-pay auction vs. lottery) and the presence or absence of social returns to bidding (public good vs. rent seeking). The results indicate that both stronger competition and the presence of the public good have positive main effects on bids. More importantly, we find a negative interaction between stronger competition and the presence of the public good, leading us to reject separability. These findings provide causal evidence that economic incentives may negatively affect pro-social behavior. More generally, they indicate that social preferences should be taken into account for the optimal design of incentive mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

  • Faravelli, Marco & Stanca, Luca, 2014. "Economic incentives and social preferences: Causal evidence of non-separability," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 273-289.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:108:y:2014:i:c:p:273-289
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2014.10.018
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    2. Paan Jindapon & Zhe Yang, 2020. "Free riders and the optimal prize in public‐good funding lotteries," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 22(5), pages 1289-1312, September.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Contests; Public goods; Rent-seeking; Social preferences; Separability; Laboratory experiments;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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