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The effects of scarcity on cheating and in-group favoritism

Author

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  • Aksoy, Billur
  • Palma, Marco A.

Abstract

We study the impact of scarcity on cheating and in-group favoritism using a two-period lab-in-the-field experiment with low-income coffee farmers in a small, isolated village in Guatemala. During the coffee harvesting months, farmers in this village experience a significant income boost from selling their coffee beans. However, during the non-harvesting months, they experience a substantial decline in income, inducing a pronounced state of scarcity, while other factors remain similar. Using this distinctive variance in income, we first conduct our experiment before the coffee harvest (Scarcity period). We then repeat the experiment with the same group of subjects during the harvest season (Abundance period). First, using the Fischbacher and Föllmi-Heusi (2013) die-roll paradigm, we find that subjects cheat at high levels in both periods when they are the beneficiaries of the cheating. Scarcity does not impact this cheating behavior. Secondly, using subjects’ natural village identity, we find significant in-group favoritism for cheating in the Abundance period, which disappears during the Scarcity period. Finally, using a dictator game, we show that this finding holds even when the cost of favoring an in-group member is monetary rather than moral.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:165:y:2019:i:c:p:100-117
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.06.024
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    Keywords

    Dishonesty; Lab-in-the-field experiment; Pro-social cheating; Scarcity; Social identity;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers

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