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Public Goods Games, Altruism, and Evolution

How can a desire to cooperate in one-shot interactions survive, even though it gives a material disadvantage to its carrier? I analyze this issue using a one-shot public goods game between two altruistic individuals. Within a pair, the least altruistic individual is better off materially. Between pairs, individuals in the pair with the highest degree of altruism are better off materially. I determine the evolutionarily stable degree of altruism, allowing for assortative matching. The stable degree of altruism is strictly smaller than the degree of assortativity, and it may be negative. It is also increasing in the degree of assortativity. For a given degree of assortativity, the stable degree of altruism depends on the relative strength of the within-pair and the between-group e¤ect on material welfare. This relative strength in turn depends on the production and cost functions in the underlying public goods game.

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File URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9779.2010.01474.x/pdf
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Paper provided by Carleton University, Department of Economics in its series Carleton Economic Papers with number 09-06.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: 26 Aug 2009
Date of revision: 01 Feb 2010
Publication status: Published: Revised version in Journal of Public Economic Theory, Vol. 12, No. 4 (August 2010), pp. 789–813
Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:09-06
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  1. Donald Cox & Bruce E. Hansen & Emmanuel Jimenez, 1997. "How Responsive are Private Transfers to Income? Evidence from a Laissez-Faire Economy," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 341., Boston College Department of Economics, revised 01 Dec 1999.
  2. Bester, Helmut & Guth, Werner, 1998. "Is altruism evolutionarily stable?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 193-209, February.
  3. Jung-Kyoo Choi, 2008. "Play locally, learn globally: group selection and structural basis of cooperation," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 239-257, December.
  4. Theodore C. Bergstrom, . "On the Evolution of Altruistic Ethical Rules for Siblings," ELSE working papers 017, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
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  9. Ingela Alger & J�rgen W. Weibull, 2010. "Kinship, Incentives, and Evolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1725-58, September.
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  11. Bolle, Friedel, 2000. "Is altruism evolutionarily stable? And envy and malevolence?: Remarks on Bester and Guth," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 131-133, May.
  12. B. Curtis Eaton & Mukesh Eswaran & Robert J. Oxoby, 2011. "Us and `Them': the origin of identity, and its economic implications," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 44(3), pages 719-748, August.
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  14. James M. Walker & Matthew A. Halloran, 2004. "Rewards and Sanctions and the Provision of Public Goods in One-Shot Settings," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 235-247, October.
  15. Possajennikov, Alex, 2000. "On the evolutionary stability of altruistic and spiteful preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 125-129, May.
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