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The Merit Primacy Effect

Author

Listed:
  • Alexander Cappelen

    (Norwegian School of Economics)

  • Karl Ove Moene

    (University of Oslo)

  • Siv-Elisabeth Skjelbred

    (University of Oslo)

  • Bertil Tungodden

    (Norwegian School of Economics)

Abstract

Do people give primacy to merit when luck partly determines earnings? This paper reports from a novel experiment where third-party spectators have to decide whether to redistribute from a high-earner to a low-earner in cases where earnings are determined by luck and merit. Our main finding is that the spectators assign strong primacy to merit in such situations, and as a result violate basic fairness conditions. We believe that the results shed new light on inequality acceptance in society, in particular by showing how just a little bit of merit can make people significantly more inequality accepting.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander Cappelen & Karl Ove Moene & Siv-Elisabeth Skjelbred & Bertil Tungodden, 2017. "The Merit Primacy Effect," Working Papers 2017-047, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2017-047
    Note: MIP
    as

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    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Cappelen_Moene_etal_2017_merit-primacy-effect.pdf
    File Function: First version, April 25, 2017
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Blog mentions

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    1. The lack of demand for equality
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2017-06-22 18:00:48

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    Cited by:

    1. Cappelen, Alexander W. & Mollerstrom, Johanna & Reme, Bjørn-Atle & Tungodden, Bertil, 2019. "A Meritocratic Origin of Egalitarian Behavior," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 9/2019, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    2. Nina Weber, 2020. "Experience and Perception of Social Mobility - a Cross-Country Test of the Self-Serving Bias," LIS Working papers 783, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    3. Dezső, Linda & Loewenstein, George, 2019. "Self-serving invocations of shared and asymmetric history in negotiations," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 120(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    luck; experimental economics; Inequality; fairness;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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