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Self-Interest, Inequality, and Entitlement in Majoritarian Decision-Making


  • Diermeier, Daniel
  • Gailmard, Sean


We experimentally test competing theories of three-player majoritarian bargaining models with fixed, known disagreement values. Subjects are randomly assigned to three roles: a proposer and two types of voters. Each role is randomly assigned a disagreement value, i.e. a given amount of money he/she will receive if the proposal is rejected. These values are known to all players before any decision is made. Proposers then make a take-it-or-leave-it offer on how to split a fixed, known amount of money among the players. If a majority of players accepts the proposal, the players' payoffs are determined by the proposal; if the proposal is rejected, each player receives his or her reservation value. We assess the ability of three behavioral hypotheses – self-interest, egalitarianism, and inequality-aversion – to account for our results. Our primary design variable is the proposer's reservation value, which allows us to obtain different implications from each hypothesis. We find that each hypothesis is inconsistent with our data in important respects. However, subjects strongly respond to changes in reservation values as if they were interpreted as a basic form of entitlement.

Suggested Citation

  • Diermeier, Daniel & Gailmard, Sean, 2006. "Self-Interest, Inequality, and Entitlement in Majoritarian Decision-Making," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 1(4), pages 327-350, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:now:jlqjps:100.00000015
    DOI: 10.1561/100.00000015

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    Cited by:

    1. Miller, Luis & Montero, Maria & Vanberg, Christoph, 2018. "Legislative bargaining with heterogeneous disagreement values: Theory and experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 60-92.
    2. Baron, David P. & Bowen, T. Renee & Nunnari, Salvatore, 2017. "Durable coalitions and communication: Public versus private negotiations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 1-13.
    3. Tremewan, James & Vanberg, Christoph, 2018. "Voting rules in multilateral bargaining: using an experiment to relax procedural assumptions," Working Papers 0651, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    4. Pohan Fong, 2008. "Endogenous Limits on Proposal Power," Discussion Papers 1465, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    5. Mallucci, Paola & Wu, Diana Yan & Cui, Tony Haitao, 2019. "Social motives in bilateral bargaining games: How power changes perceptions of fairness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 138-152.
    6. Guillaume Fréchette & John Kagel & Massimo Morelli, 2012. "Pork versus public goods: an experimental study of public good provision within a legislative bargaining framework," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 49(3), pages 779-800, April.
    7. Nunnari, Salvatore & Zapal, Jan, 2016. "Gambler's fallacy and imperfect best response in legislative bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 275-294.
    8. Alessandro Riboni & Francisco J. Ruge-Murcia, 2010. "Monetary Policy by Committee: Consensus, Chairman Dominance, or Simple Majority?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 363-416.
    9. Anita Gantner & Kristian Horn & Rudolf Kerschbamer, 2013. "Fair Division in Unanimity Bargaining with Subjective Claims," Working Papers 2013-31, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    10. Luis Miller & Christoph Vanberg, 2013. "Decision costs in legislative bargaining: an experimental analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(3), pages 373-394, June.
    11. Marco Battaglini & Thomas Palfrey, 2012. "The dynamics of distributive politics," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 49(3), pages 739-777, April.
    12. Maaser, Nicola & Traub, Stefan & Paetzel, Fabian, 2017. "Power illusion in coalitional bargaining: An experimental analysis," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168155, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    13. Hsu, Li-Chen & Yang, C.C. & Yang, Chun-Lei, 2008. "Positive- versus zero-sum majoritarian ultimatum games: An experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(3-4), pages 498-510, December.
    14. Sauermann, Jan & Beckmann, Paul, 2019. "The influence of group size on distributional fairness under voting by veto," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 90-102.
    15. Elif E. Demiral & Johanna Mollerstrom, 2018. "The Entitlement Effect in the Ultimatum Game - Does It Even Exist?," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1756, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    16. Kai A. Konrad & Raisa Sherif, 2019. "Sanctioning, selection, and pivotality in voting: theory and experimental results," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 330-357, September.
    17. Daniel Diermeier & Pohan Fong, 2011. "Legislative Bargaining with Reconsideration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 947-985.
    18. Gary Bolton & Jeannette Brosig-Koch, 2012. "How do coalitions get built? Evidence from an extensive form coalition game with and without communication," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 41(3), pages 623-649, August.

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