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Inequality and Riots Experimental Evidence


  • Klaus Abbink
  • David Masclet
  • Daniel Mirza


We study the relationship between inequality and inter-groups conflicts (riots), focussing on social inequality. Disadvantaged societal groups experience discrimination and thus have limited access to some social and labour resources like education or employment. First, we experimentally investigate whether social inequality is a driving force of inter-group conflicts. Second, we investigate the factors that make preferences for riot translate into actions. Riots require coordination. Our experiment consists of a two-stage game. First, subjects play a proportional rent-seeking game to share a prize. Social inequality is modelled exogenously by attributing to some subjects (the advantaged group) a larger share of the price than other subjects (the disadvantaged group) for the same amount of effort. In a second stage players can coordinate with the other members of their group to reduce (burn) the other group members' payoff. Treatments differ in the degree of social inequality set between the two groups. We observe frequent social conflicts, where, as expected, disadvantaged groups riot more than advantaged groups. Surprisingly, the frequency of riots decreases with the degree of inequality. A control treatment allows us to identify resignation as the driving force behind this phenomenon. Nous étudions dans cet article la relation entre inégalité et conflits inter-groupes. L'approche mobilisée est l'économie expérimentale. Le jeu expérimental est un jeu en deux étapes. Dans une première étape, les participants jouent un « rent seeking » proportionnel afin de se partager un prix. Les inégalités sont modélisées de sorte que certains agents (les joueurs de type A, favorisés) reçoivent davantage du prix pour un même montant investi que d'autres joueurs (les joueurs de type D, défavorisés). En deuxième étape, les joueurs de chaque type peuvent se coordonner afin de réduire le gain des membres de l'autre groupe. Nous observons que les conflits diminuent avec le degré d'inégalité entre les groupes. Ces résultats semblent s'expliquer par des préférences compétitives fortes et des effets de résignation.

Suggested Citation

  • Klaus Abbink & David Masclet & Daniel Mirza, 2011. "Inequality and Riots Experimental Evidence," CIRANO Working Papers 2011s-10, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2011s-10

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    Cited by:

    1. Jérémy Celse, 2009. "Will Joe the Plumber envy Bill Gates? The impact of both absolute and relative differences on interdependent preferences," Working Papers 09-26, LAMETA, Universitiy of Montpellier, revised Dec 2009.
    2. repec:eee:gamebe:v:107:y:2018:i:c:p:123-134 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Lenouvel, Vincent & Montginoul, Marielle, 2010. "Groundwater Management Instruments in a Conjunctive Use System: Assessing the Impact on Farmers’ Income Using Mixed Integer Linear Programming (MILP)," Journal of International Agricultural Trade and Development, Journal of International Agricultural Trade and Development, vol. 59(3).

    More about this item


    Design of experiments; Experimental economics; Social Inequality; Conflicts.; Design d'expérience; économie expérimentale; inégalités sociales; conflits;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior


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