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Inequality and Risk-Taking Behaviour

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  • Hopkins, Ed

Abstract

This paper investigates social influences on attitudes to risk and offers an evolutionary explanation of risk-taking by young low-ranked males. Becker, Murphy and Werning (2005) found that individuals about to participate in a status tournament may take fair gambles even though they are risk averse in both wealth and status. Here their model is generalised by use of the insight of Hopkins and Kornienko (2010) that in a tournament or status competition one can consider equality in terms of the status or rewards available as well as in initial endowments. While Becker et al. found that risk-taking is increasing in the equality of initial endowments, it is found here that it is increasing in the inequality of rewards in the tournament. Further, it is shown that the poorest will be risk loving if the lowest level of status awarded is sufficiently low. Thus, the disadvantaged in society rationally engage in risky behavior when social rewards are sufficiently unequal. Finally, as greater inequality in terms of social status induces gambling, it can cause greater inequality of wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Hopkins, Ed, 2011. "Inequality and Risk-Taking Behaviour," SIRE Discussion Papers 2011-29, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
  • Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:270
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10943/270
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robson, Arthur J., 1996. "The Evolution of Attitudes to Risk: Lottery Tickets and Relative Wealth," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 190-207, June.
    2. Imrohoroglu, Ayse & Merlo, Antonio & Rupert, Peter, 2000. "On the Political Economy of Income Redistribution and Crime," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(1), pages 1-25, February.
    3. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2010. "Which Inequality? The Inequality of Endowments versus the Inequality of Rewards," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 106-137, August.
    4. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-116, March.
    5. Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Inequality And Crime," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(4), pages 530-539, November.
    6. Hans K. Hvide, 2002. "Tournament Rewards and Risk Taking," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 877-898, October.
    7. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Ivan Werning, 2005. "The Equilibrium Distribution of Income and the Market for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 282-310, April.
    8. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "Sex Ratios, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth in the People's Republic of China," NBER Working Papers 16800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1085-1107, September.
    10. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-857, July.
    11. Rick Harbaugh & Tatiana Kornienko, 2000. "Local Status and Prospect Theory," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 2000-38, Claremont Colleges.
    12. Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
    13. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Lederman, Daniel & Loayza, Norman, 2002. "Inequality and Violent Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 1-40, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Xi, 2017. "Does Daughter Deficit Promote Parental Substance Use? Longitudinal Evidence on Smoking from Rural China," IZA Discussion Papers 10860, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Fafchamps, Marcel & Kebede, Bereket & Zizzo, Daniel John, 2015. "Keep up with the winners: Experimental evidence on risk taking, asset integration, and peer effects," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 59-79.
    3. Chen, Xi, 2017. "Do Skewed Sex Ratios Among Children Promote Parental Smoking? Longitudinal Evidence from Rural China," GLO Discussion Paper Series 159, Global Labor Organization (GLO).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    risk; status; inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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