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Risk and Reciprocity: Field Experiments in Siberia


  • E. Lance Howe

    () (Department of Economics and Public Policy, University of Alaska Anchorage)

  • James J. Murphy

    (Department of Economics and Public Policy, University of Alaska Anchorage and Institute of State Economy, Nankai University and Economic Science Institute, Chapman University)

  • Drew Gerkey

    (Department of Anthropology, School of Language, Culture & Society, Oregon State University)

  • Colin Thor West

    (Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina)


Integrating information from existing research, qualitative ethnographic interviews, and 3 participant observation, we designed a field experiment that introduces idiosyncratic 4 environmental risk and a voluntary sharing decision into a standard public goods game. Conducted 5 with subsistence resource users in rural villages in remote Kamchatka Russia, we find evidence 6 consistent with a model of indirect reciprocity and local social norms of helping the needy. When 7 experiments allow participants to develop reputations, as is the case in most small-scale societies, 8 we find that sharing is increasingly directed toward individuals experiencing hardship, good 9 reputations increase aid, and risk-pooling becomes more effective. Our results highlight the 10 importance of investigating social and ecological factors, beyond strategic risk, that affect the 11 balance between independence and interdependence when developing and testing theories of 12 cooperation.

Suggested Citation

  • E. Lance Howe & James J. Murphy & Drew Gerkey & Colin Thor West, 2015. "Risk and Reciprocity: Field Experiments in Siberia," Working Papers 15-20, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:chu:wpaper:15-20

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    More about this item


    experimental economics; field experiment; public goods; risk-pooling; resource sharing; team production;

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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