IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/hbs/wpaper/08-026.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Dynamic Interplay of Inequality and Trust - An Experimental Study

Author

Listed:
  • Ben Greiner

    (Harvard Business School)

  • Axel Ockenfels

    (University of Cologne, Department of Economics)

  • Peter Werner

    (University of Cologne, Department of Economics)

Abstract

We study the interplay of inequality and trust in a dynamic game, where trust increases efficiency and thus allows higher growth of the experimental economy in the future. We find that trust is initially high in a treatment starting with equal endowments, but decreases over time. In a treatment with unequal endowments, trust is initially lower yet remains relatively stable. The difference seems partly due to the fact that equal start positions increase subjects' inclination to condition their trust decisions on wealth comparisons, whereas conditional trust is much less prevalent with unequal initial endowments. As a result, with respect to efficiency, the initially more unequal economy fares worse in the short run but better in the long run, and the disparity of wealth distributions across economies mitigates over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Greiner & Axel Ockenfels & Peter Werner, 2007. "The Dynamic Interplay of Inequality and Trust - An Experimental Study," Harvard Business School Working Papers 08-026, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:08-026
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/08-026.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jim Engle-Warnick & Robert Slonim, 2006. "Inferring repeated-game strategies from actions: evidence from trust game experiments," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 28(3), pages 603-632, August.
    2. Chan, Kenneth S. & Mestelman, Stuart & Muller, R. Andrew, 2008. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, in: Charles R. Plott & Vernon L. Smith (ed.), Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 88, pages 831-835, Elsevier.
    3. Chaim Fershtman & Uri Gneezy, 2001. "Discrimination in a Segmented Society: An Experimental Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 351-377.
    4. Gustavsson, Magnus & Jordahl, Henrik, 2008. "Inequality and trust in Sweden: Some inequalities are more harmful than others," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 348-365, February.
    5. Haile, Daniel & Sadrieh, Abdolkarim & Verbon, Harrie A.A., 2008. "Self-serving dictators and economic growth," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 573-586, September.
    6. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
    7. Giacomo Corneo & Olivier Jeanne, 2001. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, and Growth," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 103(2), pages 283-293, June.
    8. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    9. Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & José A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 2000. "Measuring Trust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 811-846.
      • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    10. La Porta, Rafael, et al, 1997. "Trust in Large Organizations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 333-338, May.
    11. Sutter, Matthias & Kocher, Martin G., 2007. "Trust and trustworthiness across different age groups," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 364-382, May.
    12. Haile, Daniel & Sadrieh, Karim & Verbon, Harrie, 2006. "Cross-racial Envy and Underinvestment in South Africa," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21269, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    13. Muqun Li & Mark Pingle, 2007. "Examining the impact of relative standing using an ultimatum bargaining game experiment," Global Business and Economics Review, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 9(2/3), pages 183-201.
    14. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
    15. Holm, Håkan & Nystedt, Paul, 2008. "Trust in surveys and games - A methodological contribution on the influence of money and location," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 522-542, August.
    16. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    17. 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.
    18. Axel Ockenfels & Dirk Sliwka & Peter Werner, 2015. "Bonus Payments and Reference Point Violations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(7), pages 1496-1513, July.
    19. Andrew E. Clark & David Masclet & Marie Claire Villeval, 2010. "Effort and Comparison Income: Experimental and Survey Evidence," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 63(3), pages 407-426, April.
    20. Steven N. Durlauf, 2002. "On the Empirics of Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 459-479, November.
    21. Roland Bénabou, 1996. "Inequality and Growth," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1996, Volume 11, pages 11-92, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. Bruno Frey & Matthias Benz & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Introducing Procedural Utility: Not Only What, but Also How Matters," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 160(3), pages 377-401, September.
    23. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Duflo, Esther, 2003. "Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 267-299, September.
    24. Alesina, Alberto & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2002. "Who trusts others?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 207-234, August.
    25. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
    26. 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.
    27. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    28. Edward L. Glaeser & David Laibson & Bruce Sacerdote, 2002. "An Economic Approach to Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 437-458, November.
    29. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 2001. " Status, the Distribution of Wealth, and Growth," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 103(2), pages 283-293, June.
    30. Barro, Robert J, 2000. "Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
    31. Gary E Bolton & Jordi Brandts & Axel Ockenfels, 2005. "Fair Procedures: Evidence from Games Involving Lotteries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(506), pages 1054-1076, October.
    32. Kenneth S. Chan & Stuart Mestelman & Rob Moir & R. Andrew Muller Moir, 1996. "The Voluntary Provision of Public Goods under Varying Income Distributions," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(1), pages 54-69, February.
    33. Pingle, Mark & Mitchell, Mike, 2002. "What motivates positional concerns for income?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 127-148, February.
    34. Daniel Haile & Abdolkarim Sadrieh & Harrie A. A. Verbon, 2008. "Cross-racial envy and underinvestment in South African partnerships," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(5), pages 703-724, September.
    35. Roland Benabou, 1996. "Inequality and Growth," LIS Working papers 142, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    36. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
    37. Hans Peter Gruner & Giacomo Corneo, 2000. "Social Limits to Redistribution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1491-1507, December.
    38. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
    39. J. Solnick, Sara & Hemenway, David, 1998. "Is more always better?: A survey on positional concerns," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 373-383, November.
    40. Buckley, Edward & Croson, Rachel, 2006. "Income and wealth heterogeneity in the voluntary provision of linear public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 935-955, May.
    41. Lisa Anderson & Jennifer Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2006. "Induced heterogeneity in trust experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 9(3), pages 223-235, September.
    42. Sadrieh, Abdolkarim & Verbon, Harrie A.A., 2006. "Inequality, cooperation, and growth: An experimental study," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(5), pages 1197-1222, July.
    43. 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.
    44. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
    45. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Gabriele Camera & Cary Deck & David Porter, 2020. "Do economic inequalities affect long-run cooperation and prosperity?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 23(1), pages 53-83, March.
    2. Fehr, Dietmar & Rau, Hannes & Trautmann, Stefan T. & Xu, Yilong, 2020. "Inequality, fairness and social capital," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    3. Gabriele Camera & Cary Deck & David Porter, 2019. "Do Economic Inequalities Affect Long-Run Cooperation & Prosperity?," Working Papers 19-09, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    4. Posten, Ann-Christin & Ockenfels, Axel & Mussweiler, Thomas, 2014. "How activating cognitive content shapes trust: A subliminal priming study," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 12-19.
    5. Jakub Bartak, 2017. "Does income inequality hamper human capital accumulation in OECD countries?," Managerial Economics, AGH University of Science and Technology, Faculty of Management, vol. 18(2), pages 133-145.
    6. Masaki Aoyagi & Naoko Nishimura & Yoshitaka Okano, 2022. "Voluntary redistribution mechanism in asymmetric coordination games," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 25(2), pages 444-482, April.
    7. Calzolari, Giacomo & Casari, Marco & Ghidoni, Riccardo, 2018. "Carbon is forever: A climate change experiment on cooperation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 169-184.
    8. Xiao, Erte & Bicchieri, Cristina, 2010. "When equality trumps reciprocity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 456-470, June.
    9. Vladimír Gazda & Marek Gróf & Július Horváth & Matúš Kubák & Tomáš Rosival, 2012. "Agent based model of a simple economy," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 7(2), pages 209-221, October.
    10. Sophie Cetre, 2020. "Essays on the determinants of wage inequality," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/53c4o1e509l, Sciences Po.
    11. Gabriele Camera & Cary Deck & David Porter, 2016. "Do Economic Inequalities Affect Long-Run Cooperation?," Working Papers 16-18, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    12. Sophie Cetre, 2020. "Essays on the determinants of wage inequality [Etudes des déterminants des inégalités salariales]," SciencePo Working papers tel-03408393, HAL.
    13. Ewa Zawojska, 2014. "The role of dynamics for trust development. An experimental study," Ekonomia journal, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, vol. 38.
    14. Bergh, Andreas & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2014. "Trust, welfare states and income equality: Sorting out the causality," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 183-199.
    15. Bergh, Andreas & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2013. "Trust, Welfare States and Income Equality: What Causes What?," Working Paper Series 994, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    16. Birkelund, Johan & Cherry, Todd L., 2020. "Institutional inequality and individual preferences for honesty and generosity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 355-361.
    17. Gilles Grolleau & Sana El Harbi & Hayet Saadaoui & Angela Sutan, 2016. "The Interplay Of Inequality And Reference Dependence With Trust An Experimental Study," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(2), pages 117-123, April.
    18. Amalia Rodrigo-González & María Caballer-Tarazona & Aurora García-Gallego, 2019. "Active Learning on Trust and Reciprocity for Undergraduates," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(16), pages 1-22, August.
    19. Xiao, Erte & Bicchieri, Cristina, 2008. "When Equality Trumps Reciprocity: Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment," MPRA Paper 9375, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Masaki Aoyagi & Naoko Nishimura & Yoshitaka Okano, 2017. "Efficiency and Voluntary Redistribution under Inequality," ISER Discussion Paper 0992, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    21. Rodriguez-lara, Ismael, 2015. "Equal distribution or equal payoffs? Reciprocity and inequality aversion in the investment game," MPRA Paper 63313, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Hopkins, Ed & Kornienko, Tatiana, 2006. "Inequality and growth in the presence of competition for status," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 93(2), pages 291-296, November.
    2. Ciriolo, Emanuele, 2007. "Inequity aversion and trustees' reciprocity in the trust game," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 1007-1024, December.
    3. Hong, Kessely & Bohnet, Iris, 2007. "Status and distrust: The relevance of inequality and betrayal aversion," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 197-213, April.
    4. Davis, Lewis S., 2018. "Political economy of growth with a taste for status," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 35-46.
    5. Martin G. Kocher, 2015. "How Trust in Social Dilemmas Evolves with Age," CESifo Working Paper Series 5447, CESifo.
    6. Delavande, Adeline & Zafar, Basit, 2015. "Stereotypes and Madrassas: Experimental evidence from Pakistan," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 247-267.
    7. Balafoutas, Loukas & Kocher, Martin G. & Putterman, Louis & Sutter, Matthias, 2013. "Equality, equity and incentives: An experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 32-51.
    8. Smith, Alexander, 2011. "Income inequality in the trust game," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 111(1), pages 54-56, April.
    9. Sutter, Matthias & Kocher, Martin G., 2007. "Trust and trustworthiness across different age groups," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 364-382, May.
    10. Falk, Armin & Zehnder, Christian, 2007. "Discrimination and In-Group Favoritism in a Citywide Trust Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2765, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Bellemare, Charles & Kroger, Sabine, 2007. "On representative social capital," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 183-202, January.
    12. Bohnet, Iris & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2004. "Trust, risk and betrayal," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 467-484, December.
    13. Hyejin Ku & Timothy C. Salmon, 2012. "The Incentive Effects of Inequality: An Experimental Investigation," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 79(1), pages 46-70, July.
    14. Engle-Warnick, J. & Slonim, Robert L., 2006. "Learning to trust in indefinitely repeated games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 95-114, January.
    15. repec:tiu:tiucen:200457 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Naef, Michael & Schupp, Jürgen, 2009. "Measuring Trust: Experiments and Surveys in Contrast and Combination," IZA Discussion Papers 4087, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. Ashraf, Nava & Bohnet, Iris & Piankov, Nikita, 2003. "Is Trust a Bad Investment?," Working Paper Series rwp03-047, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    18. Bergh, Andreas & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2014. "Trust, welfare states and income equality: Sorting out the causality," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 183-199.
    19. James Andreoni, 2018. "Satisfaction Guaranteed: When Moral Hazard Meets Moral Preferences," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 159-189, November.
    20. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2012. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 645-677.
    21. Schwerter, Frederik & Zimmermann, Florian, 2020. "Determinants of trust: The role of personal experiences," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 413-425.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality; trust; growth; laboratory experiments;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:08-026. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/harbsus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: HBS (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/harbsus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.