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Social preferences and public economics: Mechanism design when social preferences depend on incentives


  • Bowles, Samuel
  • Hwang, Sung-Ha


Social preferences such as altruism, reciprocity, intrinsic motivation and a desire to uphold ethical norms are essential to good government, often facilitating socially desirable allocations that would be unattainable by incentives that appeal solely to self-interest. But experimental and other evidence indicates that conventional economic incentives and social preferences may be either complements or substitutes, explicit incentives crowding in or crowding out social preferences. We investigate the design of optimal incentives to contribute to a public good under these effects would make either more or less use of explicit incentives, by comparison to a naive planner who assumes they are absent.

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  • Bowles, Samuel & Hwang, Sung-Ha, 2008. "Social preferences and public economics: Mechanism design when social preferences depend on incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1811-1820, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:8-9:p:1811-1820

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D52 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Incomplete Markets
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods


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