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An Experimental Study of the Effects of Inequality and Relative Deprivation on Trusting Behavior

  • Lisa R. Anderson

    ()

    (Department of Economics, College of William and Mary)

  • Jennifer M. Mellor

    ()

    (Department of Economics, College of William and Mary)

  • Jeffrey Milyo

    ()

    (Department of Economics and Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri)

Several non-experimental studies report that income inequality and other forms of population-based heterogeneity reduce levels of trust in society. However, recent work by Glaeser et al. (2000) calls into question the reliability of widely used survey-based measures of trust. Specifically, survey responses regarding trust attitudes did not reflect subjects' actual behavior in a trust game. In this paper, we conduct a novel experimental test of the effects of inequality on trust and trustworthiness. Our experimental design induces inequality by varying the show-up fees paid to subjects, in contrast to previous experiments that focus on broad cultural or national differences in trust. We do not find robust support for the hypothesis that inequality per se dampens trusting behavior among all subjects; however, we do find some evidence that trust and trustworthiness are influenced by an individual's relative position in the group. Finally, we confirm previous findings that common survey-based measures of social trust are not associated with actual trusting behavior.

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File URL: http://economics.wm.edu/wp/cwm_wp14.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, College of William and Mary in its series Working Papers with number 14.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 13 Jan 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cwm:wpaper:14
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Web page: http://www.wm.edu/economics/

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  1. Gachter, Simon & Herrmann, Benedikt & Thoni, Christian, 2004. "Trust, voluntary cooperation, and socio-economic background: survey and experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 505-531, December.
  2. Fahr, Rene & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2000. "Fairness as a constraint on trust in reciprocity: earned property rights in a reciprocal exchange experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 275-282, March.
  3. Charles Bellemare & Sabine Kroger, 2005. "On representative social capital," Artefactual Field Experiments 00006, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. Alesina, Alberto & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2002. "Who trusts others?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 207-234, August.
  5. Engle-Warnick, Jim & Slonim, Robert L., 2004. "The evolution of strategies in a repeated trust game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 553-573, December.
  6. Bellemare, C. & Kroger, S., 2003. "On Representative Trust," Discussion Paper 2003-47, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  7. Anderhub, Vital & Engelmann, Dirk & Guth, Werner, 2002. "An experimental study of the repeated trust game with incomplete information," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 197-216, June.
  8. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-88, November.
  9. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1998. "The Quality of Goverment," NBER Working Papers 6727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Andrew Leigh, 2006. "Trust, Inequality, and Ethnic Heterogeneity," CEPR Discussion Papers 511, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  11. Lisa R. Anderson & Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2004. "Social Capital and Contributions in a Public-Goods Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 373-376, May.
  12. Knack, Stephen, 2003. " Groups, Growth and Trust: Cross-Country Evidence on the Olson and Putnam Hypotheses," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(3-4), pages 341-55, December.
  13. BOUCKAERT, Jan & DHAENE, Geert, 2002. "Inter-ethnic trust and reciprocity: Results of an experiment with small business entrepreneurs," Working Papers 2002022, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
  14. Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs & von Rosenbladt, Bernhard & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 2003. "A nation-wide laboratory: Examining trust and trustworthiness by integrating behavioral experiments into representative surveys," Discussion Papers 2003/1, Technische Universität Berlin, School of Economics and Management.
  15. Anderson, Lisa R. & Mellor, Jennifer M. & Milyo, Jeffrey, 2008. "Inequality and public good provision: An experimental analysis," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 1010-1028, June.
  16. Chaim Fershtman & Uri Gneezy, 2001. "Discrimination In A Segmented Society: An Experimental Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 351-377, February.
  17. Alvin E. Roth & V. Prasnikar & M. Okuno-Fujiwara & S. Zamir, 1998. "Bargaining and market behavior in Jerusalem, Liubljana, Pittsburgh and Tokyo: an experimental study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 344, David K. Levine.
  18. Danielson, Anders J. & Holm, Hakan J., 2007. "Do you trust your brethren?: Eliciting trust attitudes and trust behavior in a Tanzanian congregation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 255-271, February.
  19. Cochard, Francois & Nguyen Van, Phu & Willinger, Marc, 2004. "Trusting behavior in a repeated investment game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 31-44, September.
  20. Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & José A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 2000. "Measuring Trust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 811-846, August.
    • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  21. Angus Deaton, 2001. "Relative deprivation, inequality, and mortality," Working Papers 275, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  22. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Verhoogen, Eric, 2003. "Playing both roles in the trust game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 195-216, June.
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  24. Abigail Barr, 1999. "Familiarity and trust: An experimental investigation," CSAE Working Paper Series 1999-23, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  25. Bouckaert, Jan & Dhaene, Geert, 2004. "Inter-ethnic trust and reciprocity: results of an experiment with small businessmen," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 869-886, November.
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  29. repec:dgr:kubcen:200347 is not listed on IDEAS
  30. Sheryl Ball & Catherine Eckel & Philip J. Grossman & William Zame, 2001. "Status In Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 161-188, February.
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