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Social Position and Distributive Justice: Experimental Evidence

  • Kurtis Swope

    ()

    (Department of Economics, U.S. Naval Academy, 589 McNair Road, Annapolis, MD 21402, USA)

  • John Cadigan

    (Department of Economics, Gettysburg College, 300 North Washington Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USA)

  • Pamela Schmitt

    ()

    (Department of Economics, U.S. Naval Academy, 589 McNair Road, Annapolis, MD 21402, USA)

  • Robert Shupp

    (Department of Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University, 202 Agriculture Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA)

Using a simple, double-blind dictator experiment, we examine the extent to which subjects' choices of distributive shares are influenced by unearned social position. We measure social position by the initial distributive shares (resources) and the subjects' ability to determine the final distributive shares (power). We find that subjects' decisions are consistent with Rawls' (1971) hypothesis that individuals expect a greater share when in a position with more power and initial resources. Finally, we test if subjects' choices under a laboratory veil of ignorance are consistent with Rawls' concept of distributive justice. “Veiled” individuals exhibit preferences that are less risk-averse and have greater variance than Rawls hypothesized.

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Article provided by Southern Economic Association in its journal Southern Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 74 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (January)
Pages: 811-818

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Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:74:3:y:2008:p:811-818
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.southerneconomic.org/

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  1. Cherry, Todd L., 2001. "Mental accounting and other-regarding behavior: Evidence from the lab," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 605-615, October.
  2. Grzegorz Lissowski & Tadeusz Tyszka & Wlodzimierz Okrasa, 1991. "Principles of Distributive Justice," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 35(1), pages 98-119, March.
  3. David K Levine, 1997. "Modeling Altruism and Spitefulness in Experiments," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2047, David K. Levine.
  4. Rena dela Cruz-Doña & Alan Martina, 2000. "Diverse Groups Agreeing on a System of Justice in Distribution: Evidence from the Philippines," Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, , vol. 11(1), pages 35-76, January.
  5. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S285-300, October.
  6. Barry Sopher & Edi Karni & Tim Salmon, 2001. "Individual Sense of Fairness: An Experimental Study," Departmental Working Papers 200107, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  7. Harrison, Glenn W & McCabe, Kevin A, 1996. "Expectations and Fairness in a Simple Bargaining Experiment," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 303-27.
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