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Parental Background and Other-Regarding Preferences in Children



Other-regarding preferences are important for establishing and maintaining cooperative outcomes. In this paper, we study how formation of other-regarding preferences during childhood is affected by parental background. Our subjects, aged 4-12 years, are classified into other-regarding types based on simple binary choice dictator games. The main finding is that children of parents with low education are more spiteful, more selfish and less altruistic. This link is robust to controlling for a rich set of child characteristics and class fixed effects. The parental effects stand out against the overall development of preferences, as we find children to become less spiteful and more altruistic with increasing age. Our findings, complemented by an analysis of the World Values Survey data, suggest that low socio-economic status affects parental effort invested in instilling other-regarding preferences into children, making them less likely to acquire cooperative types of preferences.

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  • Michal Bauer & Julie Chytilová & Barbara Pertold-Gebicka, 2012. "Parental Background and Other-Regarding Preferences in Children," Working Papers IES 2012/10, Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Economic Studies, revised Apr 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:fau:wpaper:wp2012_10

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    Cited by:

    1. Avner Ben-Ner & John A. List & Louis Putterman & Anya Samek, 2015. "Learned Generosity? A Field Experiment with Parents and their Children," Working Papers 2015-12, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    2. Conzo, Pierluigi & Salustri, Francesco, 2017. "A war is forever: The long-run effects of early exposure to World War II on trust?," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201735, University of Turin.
    3. Fabian Kosse & Thomas Deckers & Hannah Schildberg-Horisch & Armin Falk, 2016. "The Formation of Prosociality: Causal Evidence on the Role of Social Environment," Working Papers 2016-011, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    4. Couttenier, Mathieu & Preotu, Veronica & Rohner, Dominic & Thoenig, Mathias, 2016. "The Violent Legacy of Victimization: Post-Conflict Evidence on Asylum Seekers, Crimes and Public Policy in Switzerland," CEPR Discussion Papers 11079, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. John, Katrin & Thomsen, Stephan L., 2017. "Gender Differences in the Development of Other-Regarding Preferences," IZA Discussion Papers 11044, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah & Deckers, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Kosse, Fabian, 2014. "How Does Socio-Economic Status Shape a Child's Personality?," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100285, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Valeria Maggian & Marie Claire Villeval, 2016. "Social preferences and lying aversion in children," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(3), pages 663-685, September.
    8. Alexander Cappelen & John List & Anya Samek & Bertil Tungodden, 2016. "The Effect of Early Education on Social Preferences," Framed Field Experiments 00584, The Field Experiments Website.
    9. Michal Bauer & Christopher Blattman & Julie Chytilová & Joseph Henrich & Edward Miguel & Tamar Mitts, 2016. "Can War Foster Cooperation?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 249-274, Summer.
    10. Ingvild Almås & Alexander W. Cappelen & Kjell G. Salvanes & Erik Ø. Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2016. "Willingness to Compete: Family Matters," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(8), pages 2149-2162, August.
    11. Armin Falk & Fabian Kosse, 2016. "Early Childhood Environment, Breastfeeding and the Formation of Preferences," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 882, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    12. Bauer, Michal & Fiala, Nathan & Levely, Ian, 2014. "Trusting Former Rebels: An Experimental Approach to Understanding Reintegration After Civil War," Working Papers 31, University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.
    13. Falk, Armin, 2017. "Status Inequality, Moral Disengagement and Violence," IZA Discussion Papers 10921, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. José Alberto Molina & Alfredo Ferrer & José Ignacio Gimenez-Nadal & Carlos Gracia-Lazaro & Yamir Moreno & Angel Sanchez, 2016. "The effect of kinship on intergenerational cooperation: A lab experiment with three generations," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 905, Boston College Department of Economics.
    15. Koch, Alexander & Nafziger, Julia & Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 2015. "Behavioral economics of education," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 3-17.
    16. Deckers, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Kosse, Fabian & Pinger, Pia & Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah, 2017. "Socio-economic status and inequalities in children's IQ and economic preferences," DICE Discussion Papers 274, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    17. Fitzenberger, Bernd & Licklederer, Stefanie, 2016. "Additional Career Assistance and Educational Outcomes for Students in Lower Track Secondary Schools," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145787, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    18. John, Katrin & Thomsen, Stephan L., 2015. "School-track environment or endowment: What determines different other-regarding behavior across peer groups?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 122-141.
    19. Utteeyo Dasgupta & Subha Mani & Smriti Sharma & Saurabh Singhal, 2017. "Can gender differences in distributional preferences explain gender gaps in competition?," WIDER Working Paper Series 090, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    20. Kyunghui Choi & Syngjoo Choi & Byung-Yeon Kim & Jungmin Lee & Sokbae Lee, 2013. "Do institutions affect social preferences? Evidence from divided Korea," CeMMAP working papers CWP35/13, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    21. James Andreoni & Michael Kuhn & John List & Anya Samek & Charles Sprenger, 2017. "Field experiments on the development of time preferences," Artefactual Field Experiments 00615, The Field Experiments Website.
    22. Kirsten Häger & Bastiaan Oud & Daniel Schunk, 2012. "Egalitarian Envy: Cross-cultural Variation in the Development of Envy in Children," Jena Economic Research Papers 2012-059, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    23. Bügelmayer, Elisabeth & Katharina Spiess, C., 2014. "Spite and cognitive skills in preschoolers," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 154-167.
    24. Ingvild Almås & Alexander W Cappelen & Kjell G Salvanes & Erik Ø Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden, 2017. "Fairness and family background," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 16(2), pages 117-131, May.
    25. Ulrik H. Nielsen, 2014. "Parents' Education and their Adult Offspring's Other-Regarding Behavour," Discussion Papers 14-03, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    other-regarding preferences; altruism; spite; children; family background; field experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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