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Punishment, inequality, and welfare: a public good experiment

  • David Masclet

    ()

  • Marie-Claire Villeval

This paper reports the results of an experiment that investigates the relationships between inequality and punishment. In particular, we analyze how inter-personal comparisons affect altruistic punishment behavior. In addition, we examine how punishment affects inequality over time. We compare two treatments of a two-stage public good game, one in which costly punishment reduces the immediate payoff inequality between the punisher and the target, and one in which it does not affect the current level of inequality. Our results indicate that subjects punish even when they cannot alter the current distribution of payoffs. We find however that in both treatments, the intensity of punishment increases in the level of inequality. Finally, despite its cost, we show that punishment improves welfare in association with a decrease in the level of inequality over time.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00355-007-0291-7
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Article provided by Springer in its journal Social Choice and Welfare.

Volume (Year): 31 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (October)
Pages: 475-502

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Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:31:y:2008:i:3:p:475-502
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  1. Egas, Martijn & Riedl, Arno, 2005. "The Economics of Altruistic Punishment and the Demise of Cooperation," IZA Discussion Papers 1646, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  7. Astrid Hopfensitz & Ernesto Reuben, 2009. "The Importance of Emotions for the Effectiveness of Social Punishment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(540), pages 1534-1559, October.
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  9. Robert MacCulloch & Silvia Pezzini, 2007. "Money, religion and revolution," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 1-16, January.
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  12. 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.
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  14. Olivier Bochet & Talbot Page & Louis Putterman, 2005. "Communication and Punishment in Voluntary Contribution Experiments," Working Papers 2005-09, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  15. David Masclet & Charles Noussair & Steven Tucker & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2003. "Monetary and Nonmonetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 366-380, March.
  16. Jeffrey Carpenter, 2002. "Punishing Free Riders: how group size affects mutual monitoring and the provision of public goods," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0206, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  17. Jeffrey Carpenter & Peter Matthews, 2002. "Social Reciprocity," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0229, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  18. Brown, Gordon D. A. & Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J. & Qian, Jing, 2005. "Does Wage Rank Affect Employees' Wellbeing?," IZA Discussion Papers 1505, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Peter Matthews & Jeffrey Carpenter, 2002. "Why Punish: Social Reciprocity and the Enforcement of Prosocial Norms," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0213, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  20. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 010, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  21. Martijn Egas & Arno Riedl, 2005. "The Economics of Altruistic Punishment and the Demise of Cooperation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-065/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  22. Anderson, Christopher M. & Putterman, Louis, 2006. "Do non-strategic sanctions obey the law of demand? The demand for punishment in the voluntary contribution mechanism," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 1-24, January.
  23. Jeffrey Carpenter, 2002. "The Demand for Punishment," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0243, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  24. Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2005. "Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 2017-2030, November.
  25. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
  26. Martijn Egas & Arno Riedl, 2005. "The Economics of Altruistic Punishment and the Demise of Cooperation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-065/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  27. Astrid Hopfensitz & Ernesto Reuben, 2005. "The Importance of Emotions for the Effectiveness of Social Punishment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-075/1, Tinbergen Institute, revised 28 Mar 2006.
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