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Efficiency-Enhancing Signalling in the Samaritan's Dilemma

  • Lagerlöf, Johan N. M.

Suppose an altruistic person - A - is willing to transfer resources to a second person - B - if B comes upon hard times. If B anticipates that A will act in this manner, B will save too little from both agents’ point of view. This is the Samaritan’s dilemma. The logic of the dilemma has been employed in an extensive literature, addressing a wide range of both normative and positive issues. This Paper shows, however, that the under-saving result is mitigated if we relax the standard assumption of complete information. The reason for this is that if A is uncertain about how big B’s need for support is, B will have an incentive to signal that they are in great need by saving more that they otherwise would have done.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3842.

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Date of creation: Mar 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3842
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  1. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "The Family and the State," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 1-18, April.
  2. Bruce, Neil & Waldman, Michael, 1991. "Transfers in Kind: Why They Can Be Efficient and Nonpaternalistic," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1345-51, December.
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  4. Coate, Stephen, 1995. "Altruism, the Samaritan's Dilemma, and Government Transfer Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 46-57, March.
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  8. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1989. "Social Security as Trade among Living Generations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1182-95, December.
  9. Johan Lagerl–f, 2004. "Efficiency-enhancing signalling in the Samaritan's dilemma," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(492), pages 55-69, 01.
  10. Chakrabarti, Subir & Lord, William & Rangazas, Peter, 1993. "Uncertain Altruism and Investment in Children," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 994-1002, September.
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  13. Bruce, Neil & Waldman, Michael, 1990. "The Rotten-Kid Theorem Meets the Samaritan's Dilemma," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 155-65, February.
  14. Bernheim, B Douglas & Stark, Oded, 1988. "Altruism within the Family Reconsidered: Do Nice Guys Finish Last?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1034-45, December.
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