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Belief in Hard Work and Altruism: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment

Author

Listed:
  • Sule Alan

    () (University of Essex)

  • Seda Ertac

    () (Koc University)

Abstract

We show that optimistic beliefs regarding the role of effort in success, while leading to success, diminish the individual’s sympathy toward the unsuccessful. We generate random variation in the degree of optimism about the productivity of effort via an effective educational intervention. We find that treated children, holding significantly more optimistic beliefs, are no less likely than control to give to unlucky recipients, but significantly less likely to give to those who failed at a real effort task despite an opportunity to build skill. The results highlight possible unintended social effects of effort-focused optimism and have implications for political economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Sule Alan & Seda Ertac, 2017. "Belief in Hard Work and Altruism: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," Working Papers 2017-053, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2017-053
    Note: IP
    as

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    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Alan_Ertac_2017_hard-work-altruism.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2017
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Chen, Chia-Ching & Chiu, I-Ming & Smith, John & Yamada, Tetsuji, 2013. "Too smart to be selfish? Measures of cognitive ability, social preferences, and consistency," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 112-122.
    2. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
    3. 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.
    4. John H. Kagel & Alvin E. Roth, 2016. "The Handbook of Experimental Economics, Volume 2," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 2, number 10874.
    5. Oxoby, Robert J. & Spraggon, John, 2008. "Mine and yours: Property rights in dictator games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 703-713, March.
    6. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 1996. "Altruism in Anonymous Dictator Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 181-191, October.
    7. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fabian Kosse & Thomas Deckers & Pia Pinger & Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch & Armin Falk, 2020. "The Formation of Prosociality: Causal Evidence on the Role of Social Environment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 128(2), pages 434-467.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    redistributive preferences; prosocial behavior; altruism; beliefs; fairness; field experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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