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Equity Aversion

  • Fershtman, Chaim
  • Gneezy, Uri
  • List, John

Models of inequity aversion and fairness have dominated the behavioural economics landscape in the last decade. This study gathers data from 240 subjects exposed to variants of two of the major experimental games - dictator and trust - that are employed to provide important empirical content to these models. With a set of simple laboratory treatments that focus on a manipulation of an important feature of real markets, competition over resources, we show that extant behavioural models are unable to explain data drawn from realistic manipulations of either game. Our empirical results highlight that if placed in an environment wherein socially acceptable actions provide one person with a greater portion of the rents, people will put forth extra effort to secure those rents, to the detriment of the other player. In this manner, when one can earn more than the other player through actions deemed customary, people reveal a preference for equity aversion, not inequity aversion. We propose an alternative modelling approach that can explain these data as well as accommodate other major data patterns observed in the experimental literature.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6853.

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Date of creation: Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6853
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  1. repec:feb:framed:0077 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  4. Yoram Weiss & Chaim Fershtman, 1997. "Social Status and Economic Performance: A Survey," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 139, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  5. Dufwenberg, Martin & Gneezy, Uri, 2000. "Measuring Beliefs in an Experimental Lost Wallet Game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 163-182, February.
  6. repec:feb:natura:0056 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. John List & Steven Levitt, 2008. "Homo economicus evolves," Artefactual Field Experiments 00095, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2007. "Paying Respect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 135-150, Fall.
  9. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  10. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
  11. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
  12. John A. List, 2007. "On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 482-493.
  13. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
  14. repec:feb:artefa:0095 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  16. Akerlof, George A, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617, November.
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