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The Role of Equality and Efficiency in Social Preferences

  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Naef, Michael
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.

Engelmann and Strobel (AER 2004) question the relevance of inequity aversion in simple dictator game experiments claiming that a combination of a preference for efficiency and a Rawlsian motive for helping the least well-off is more important than inequity aversion. We show that these results are partly based on a strong subject pool effect. The participants of the E&S experiments were undergraduate students of economics and business administration who self-selected into their field of study (economics) and learned in the first semester that efficiency is desirable. We show that for non-economists the preference for efficiency is much less pronounced. We also find a non-negligible gender effect indicating that women are more egalitarian than men. However, perhaps surprisingly, the dominance of equality over efficiency is unrelated to political attitudes.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5368.

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Date of creation: Nov 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5368
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  1. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity," Discussion Papers in Economics 14, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," IEW - Working Papers 004, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  4. Guillaume R. Frechette & John H. Kagel & Steven Lehrer, 2000. "Bargaining in Legislatures: An Experimental Investigation of Open versus Closed Amendment Rules," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1515, Econometric Society.
  5. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869, August.
  6. Dirk Engelmann & Martin Strobel, 2004. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 857-869, September.
  7. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2004. "The Role of Equality, Efficiency, and Rawlsian Motives in Social Preferences: A Reply to Engelmann and Strobel," Munich Reprints in Economics 20655, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, . "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity - Evidence and Economic Applications," IEW - Working Papers 075, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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