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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. Theodore C. Bergstrom, . "On the Evolution of Altruistic Ethical Rules for Siblings," ELSE working papers 017, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
  2. 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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  6. Oechssler, Jörg & Riedel, Frank, 2000. "On the dynamic foundation of evolutionary stability in continuous models," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 2000,73, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
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  8. Bester, Helmut & Guth, Werner, 1998. "Is altruism evolutionarily stable?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 193-209, February.
  9. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2006. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 5768, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Theodore C. Bergstrom, 2002. "Evolution of Social Behavior: Individual and Group Selection," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 67-88, Spring.
  14. Joseph Henrich & Robert Boyd & Samuel Bowles & Colin Camerer & Ernst Fehr & Herbert Gintis & Richard McElreath & Michael Alvard & Abigail Barr & Jean Ensminger & Kim Hill & Francisco Gil-White & Micha, 2001. "Economic Man in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Behavioral Experiments in Fifteen Small-Scale Societies," Working Papers 01-11-063, Santa Fe Institute.
  15. 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.
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