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Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Good Experiments

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  • Urs Fischbacher
  • Simon Gaechter

Abstract

We provide a test of the role of social preferences and beliefs in voluntary cooperation and its decline. We elicit individuals’ cooperation preferences in one experiment and use them – as well as subjects’ elicited beliefs – to explain contributions to a public good played repeatedly. We find substantial heterogeneity in people’s preferences. With simulation methods based on this data, we show that the decline of cooperation can be driven by the fact that most people have a preference to contribute less than others, rather than by their changing beliefs of others’ contribution over time. Universal free riding is very likely despite the fact that most people are not selfish.

Suggested Citation

  • Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2008. "Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Good Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 2491, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2491
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Oxoby, 2013. "Paretian dictators: constraining choice in a voluntary contribution game," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 125-138, June.
    2. Armantier, Olivier & Treich, Nicolas, 2013. "Eliciting beliefs: Proper scoring rules, incentives, stakes and hedging," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 17-40.
    3. Gerlinde Fellner & Rupert Sausgruber & Christian Traxler, 2009. "Testing Enforcement Strategies in the Field: Legal Threat, Moral Appeal and Social Information," Working Papers 2009-23, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    4. Lisa Bruttel & Gerald Eisenkopf, 2009. "Incentive Compatible Contracts?," TWI Research Paper Series 43, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.
    5. Werner Güth & Lauri Sääksvuori, 2010. "The Provision of Public Goods with Positive Group Interdependencies," Jena Economic Research Papers 2010-022, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    public goods experiments; social preferences; conditional cooperation; free riding;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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