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The Dynamic Interplay of Inequality and Trust – An Experimental Study

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  • Ben Greiner
  • Axel Ockenfels
  • Peter Werner

Abstract

We study the interplay of inequality and trust in a dynamic game, in which trust increases efficiency and thus allows higher growth of the experimental economy in the future. We find that trust is initially high in a treatment starting with equal endowments, but decreases over time. In a treatment with unequal endowments, trust is initially lower yet remains relatively stable. The difference seems partly due to the fact that equal starting positions increase subjects’ inclination to condition their trust decisions on wealth comparisons, whereas conditional trust is much less prevalent with unequal initial endowments. As a result, with respect to efficiency, the initially more unequal economy fares worse in the short run but better in the long run, and the disparity of wealth distributions across economies mitigates over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Greiner & Axel Ockenfels & Peter Werner, 2007. "The Dynamic Interplay of Inequality and Trust – An Experimental Study," CESifo Working Paper Series 2173, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2173
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    Cited by:

    1. Posten, Ann-Christin & Ockenfels, Axel & Mussweiler, Thomas, 2014. "How activating cognitive content shapes trust: A subliminal priming study," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 12-19.
    2. repec:agh:journl:v:18:y:2017:i:2:p:133-145 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. G. Calzolari & M. Casari & R. Ghidoni, 2016. "Carbon is Forever: a Climate Change Experiment on Cooperation," Working Papers wp1065, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    4. Xiao, Erte & Bicchieri, Cristina, 2010. "When equality trumps reciprocity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 456-470, June.
    5. Vladimír Gazda & Marek Gróf & Július Horváth & Matúš Kubák & Tomáš Rosival, 2012. "Agent based model of a simple economy," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 7(2), pages 209-221, October.
    6. Ewa Zawojska, 2014. "The role of dynamics for trust development. An experimental study," Ekonomia journal, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, vol. 38.
    7. Bergh, Andreas & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2014. "Trust, welfare states and income equality: Sorting out the causality," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 183-199.
    8. Bergh, Andreas & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2013. "Trust, Welfare States and Income Equality: What Causes What?," Working Paper Series 994, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    9. Gilles Grolleau & Sana El Harbi & Hayet Saadaoui & Angela Sutan, 2016. "The Interplay Of Inequality And Reference Dependence With Trust An Experimental Study," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(2), pages 117-123, April.
    10. Xiao, Erte & Bicchieri, Cristina, 2008. "When Equality Trumps Reciprocity: Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment," MPRA Paper 9375, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Masaki Aoyagi & Naoko Nishimura & Yoshitaka Okano, 2017. "Efficiency and Voluntary Redistribution under Inequality," ISER Discussion Paper 0992, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    12. Rodriguez-lara, Ismael, 2015. "Equal distribution or equal payoffs? Reciprocity and inequality aversion in the investment game," MPRA Paper 63313, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Gabriele Camera & Cary Deck & David Porter, 2016. "Do Economic Inequalities Affect Long-Run Cooperation?," Working Papers 16-18, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality; trust; growth; laboratory experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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