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Punishment, inequality, and welfare: a public good experiment

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  • David Masclet

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  • Marie-Claire Villeval

Abstract

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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  • David Masclet & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2008. "Punishment, inequality, and welfare: a public good experiment," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 31(3), pages 475-502, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:31:y:2008:i:3:p:475-502
    DOI: 10.1007/s00355-007-0291-7
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Haoran He & Marie Claire Villeval, 2014. "Are teams less inequality averse than individuals?," Post-Print halshs-01077253, HAL.
    2. Christian Thöni, 2014. "Inequality aversion and antisocial punishment," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 76(4), pages 529-545, April.
    3. Clark, Andrew E. & D'Ambrosio, Conchita, 2014. "Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 8136, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Jörg Oechssler, 2013. "Finitely repeated games with social preferences," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 16(2), pages 222-231, June.
    5. Falk, Armin & Meier, Stephan & Zehnder, Christian, 2010. "Did We Overestimate the Role of Social Preferences? The Case of Self-Selected Student Samples," CEPR Discussion Papers 8019, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Gary Charness & David Masclet & Marie Claire Villeval, 2014. "The Dark Side of Competition for Status," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(1), pages 38-55, January.
    7. Reuben, Ernesto & Riedl, Arno, 2013. "Enforcement of contribution norms in public good games with heterogeneous populations," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 122-137.
    8. Clark, Andrew E. & D'Ambrosio, Conchita, 2014. "Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 8136, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Akpalu Wisdom & Muchapondwa Edwin & Adidoye Babatunde & Simbanegavi Witness, 2015. "Public disclosure for pollution abatement: African decision-makers in a PROPER public good experiment," WIDER Working Paper Series 060, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    10. Simon Gaechter & Benedikt Herrmann, 2008. "Reciprocity, culture, and human cooperation: Previous insights and a new cross-cultural experiment," Discussion Papers 2008-14, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    11. Dai, Zhixin & Hogarth, Robin M. & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2015. "Ambiguity on audits and cooperation in a public goods game," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 146-162.
    12. Barmettler, Franziska & Fehr, Ernst & Zehnder, Christian, 2012. "Big experimenter is watching you! Anonymity and prosocial behavior in the laboratory," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 17-34.
    13. Engel, Christoph, 2014. "Social preferences can make imperfect sanctions work: Evidence from a public good experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 343-353.
    14. Christoph Engel, 2013. "Deterrence by Imperfect Sanctions – A Public Good Experiment," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2013_09, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    15. Andreas Fuster & Stephan Meier, 2010. "Another Hidden Cost of Incentives: The Detrimental Effect on Norm Enforcement," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(1), pages 57-70, January.
    16. He, Haoran & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2017. "Are group members less inequality averse than individual decision makers?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 111-124.
    17. Peter Martinsson & Clara Villegas-Palacio & Conny Wollbrant, 2015. "Cooperation and social classes: evidence from Colombia," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 45(4), pages 829-848, December.
    18. Daniele Nosenzo & Martin Sefton, 2012. "Promoting Cooperation: the Distribution of Reward and Punishment Power," Discussion Papers 2012-08, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    19. Visser, M. & Burns, J., 2015. "Inequality, social sanctions and cooperation within South African fishing communities," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 95-109.

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