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Cooperation Is Relative: Income and Framing Effects with Public Goods

  • Brekke, Kjell Arne


    (Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo)

  • Konow , James


    (Department of Economics, Loyola Marymount University,)

  • Nyborg, Karine


    (Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo)

In social dilemmas, there is tension between cooperation that promotes the common good and the pursuit of individual interests. International climate change negotiations provide one example: although abatement costs are borne by individual countries, the benefits are shared globally. We study a multi-period, threshold public goods game with unequally endowed participants and communication in which the decision variable is framed in three seemingly inconsequential ways: as absolute contributions, contributions relative to endowments and in terms of the effects of contributions on final payoffs. We find considerable agreement that “rich” (or high endowed) persons contribute more than “poor” (or low endowed) individuals at levels that are invariant across frames. Frames do, however, significantly affect both preferred and actual contributions for the poor: they contribute significantly less when the decision variable makes the effects on final payoffs salient than when it is framed in terms of absolute contributions. Contributions are explained mostly by self-interest, justice preferences, and experiencing failed negotiations, but we find no effects of reciprocity toward individuals or of the suggestions of others about what one should contribute.

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Paper provided by Oslo University, Department of Economics in its series Memorandum with number 16/2012.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: 21 May 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:osloec:2012_016
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, University of Oslo, P.O Box 1095 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway
Phone: 22 85 51 27
Fax: 22 85 50 35
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  1. Alessandro Tavoni & Astrid Dannenberg & Giorgos Kallis & Andreas L�schel, 2011. "Inequality, communication and the avoidance of disastrous climate change," GRI Working Papers 34, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  2. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
  3. Andre Hofmeyr & Justine Burns & Martine Visser, 2008. "Income Inequality, Reciprocity and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Analysis," Working Papers 77, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  4. Lange, Andreas & Löschel, Andreas & Vogt, Carsten & Ziegler, Andreas, 2010. "On the self-interested use of equity in international climate negotiations," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 359-375, April.
  5. Rachel T. A. Croson, 2007. "Theories Of Commitment, Altruism And Reciprocity: Evidence From Linear Public Goods Games," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(2), pages 199-216, 04.
  6. Kjell Arne Brekke & Snorre Kverndokk & Karinen Nyborg, 2000. "An Economic Model of Moral Motivation," Discussion Papers 290, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
  7. Olof Johansson-Stenman & James Konow, 2010. "Fair Air: Distributive Justice and Environmental Economics," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 46(2), pages 147-166, June.
  8. W. Guth & R. Schmittberger & B. Schwartz, 2010. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Levine's Working Paper Archive 291, David K. Levine.
  9. R. Cookson, 2000. "Framing Effects in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 55-79, June.
  10. Konow, James, 2001. "Fair and square: the four sides of distributive justice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 137-164, October.
  11. Rege, Mari & Telle, Kjetil, 2004. "The impact of social approval and framing on cooperation in public good situations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1625-1644, July.
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