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Are dictators averse to inequality?

  • Korenok, Oleg
  • Millner, Edward L.
  • Razzolini, Laura

We present the results of an experiment designed to identify more clearly the motivation underlying dictators’ behavior. In the typical dictator game, recipients are given no endowment. We give an endowment to the recipient as well as the dictator. This new dimension allows us to test directly for inequality aversion. Our results confirm that the inequality between dictator's and recipient's endowment is a key determinant of the dictator's giving. As we increase the recipient's endowment from 0 to an amount equal to the dictator's endowment, the mean amount passed drops from 30 percent to less than 12 percent of the dictator's endowment, and the proportion of dictators who pass positive amounts falls from 75 percent to 26 percent. Thus the majority of dictators exhibit behavior consistent with inequality averse preferences. On the other hand, only 24 percent of dictators split payoffs equally suggesting that maximin preferences are less important drivers of dictators’ giving.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 82 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 543-547

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:82:y:2012:i:2:p:543-547
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  1. Konow, James, 2010. "Mixed feelings: Theories of and evidence on giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 279-297, April.
  2. 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.
  3. Bolton, G. & Katok, E., 1995. "An Experimental Test of the Crowding Out Hypothesis: The Nature of Beneficient Behavior," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 295.95, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  4. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J. & Johnston, Rachel M., 2005. "An experimental test of the crowding out hypothesis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(8), pages 1543-1560, August.
  5. Crumpler, Heidi & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "An experimental test of warm glow giving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1011-1021, June.
  6. 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.
  7. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," General Economics and Teaching 0303002, EconWPA.
  8. Nicholas Bardsley, 2008. "Dictator game giving: altruism or artefact?," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 122-133, June.
  9. repec:oup:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:3:p:817-869 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  11. repec:oup:qjecon:v:114:y:1999:i:3:p:817-868 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. William S. Neilson, 1993. "An Expected Utility-User's Guide to Nonexpected Utility Experiments," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 19(3), pages 257-274, Summer.
  13. John A. List, 2007. "On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 482-493.
  14. Battalio, Raymond C & Kagel, John H & Jiranyakul, Komain, 1990. " Testing between Alternative Models of Choice under Uncertainty: Some Initial Results," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 25-50, March.
  15. 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).
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