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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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  1. Charles Bellemare & Sabine Kroger, 2005. "On Representative Social Capital," Cahiers de recherche 0504, CIRPEE.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
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  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Lisa Anderson & Jennifer Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2004. "Social Capital and Contributions in a Public Goods Experiment," Working Papers 0317, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  11. Angus Deaton, 2001. "Relative Deprivation, Inequality, and Mortality," NBER Working Papers 8099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Nancy Buchan & Rachel Croson, 1999. "Gender and Culture: International Experimental Evidence from Trust Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 386-391, May.
  14. 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.
  15. Buchan, Nancy & Croson, Rachel, 2004. "The boundaries of trust: own and others' actions in the US and China," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 485-504, December.
  16. Danielson, Anders & Holm, Hakan, 2004. "Do You Trust Your Brethren? Eliciting Trust Attitudes and Trust Behavior in a Tanzanian Congregation," Working Papers 2004:2, Lund University, Department of Economics.
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  18. 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.
  19. Bellemare, Charles & Kröger, Sabine, 2003. "On Representative Trust," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 2003,24, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  20. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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  27. 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.
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