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Inequality and Risk-Taking Behaviour

  • Hopkins, Ed

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.

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Paper provided by Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) in its series SIRE Discussion Papers with number 2011-29.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:270
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  1. 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.
  2. 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 106-37, August.
  3. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2002. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," ESE Discussion Papers 92, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  4. 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.
  5. Rick Harbaugh & Tatiana Kornienko, 2000. "Local Status and Prospect Theory," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 2000-38, Claremont Colleges.
  6. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-16, March.
  7. 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.
  8. Hvide, H.K., 1999. "Tournament Rewards and Risk Taking," Papers 32-99, Tel Aviv.
  9. Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Inequality and crime," Open Access publications 10197/523, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  10. 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.
  11. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-57, July.
  12. 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.
  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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