IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Preferences over the Fair Division of Goods: Information, Good, and Sample Effects in a Health Context


  • Jeremiah Hurley

    () (Department of Economics, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis, McMaster University, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University)

  • Neil Buckley

    () (Department of Economics, York University)

  • Kate Cuff

    () (Department of Economics, McMaster University)

  • Mita Giacomini

    () (Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis, McMaster University)

  • David Cameron

    (Department of Economics, McMaster University, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis, McMaster University)


Greater recognition by economists of the influential role that concern for distributional equity exerts on decision making in a variety of economic contexts has spurred interest in empirical research on the public judgments of fair distribution. Using a stated-preference experimental design, this paper contributes to the growing literature on fair division by investigating the empirical support for each of five distributional principles — equal division among recipients, Rawlsian maximin, total benefit maximization, equal benefit for recipients, and allocation according to relative need among recipients — in the division of a fixed bundle of a good across settings that differ with respect to the good being allocated (a health care good — pills, and non-health care but still health-affecting good — apples) and the way that alternative possible divisions of the good are described (quantitative information only, verbal information only, and both). It also offers new evidence on sample effects (university sample vs. community samples) and how the aggregate ranking of principles is affected by alternative vote-scoring methods. We find important information effects. When presented with quantitative information only, support for the division to equalize benefit across recipients is consistent with that found in previous research; changing to verbal descriptions causes a notable shift in support among principles, especially between equal division of the goods and total benefit maximization. The judgments made when presented with both quantitative and verbal information match more closely those made with quantitative-only descriptions rather than verbal-only descriptions, suggesting that the quantitative information dominates. The information effects we observe are consistent with a lack of understanding among participants as to the relationship between the principles and the associated quantitative allocations. We also find modest good effects in the expected direction: the fair division of pills is tied more closely to benefit-related criterion than is the fair division of apples (even though both produce health benefits). We find evidence of only small differences between the university and community samples and important sex-information interactions.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeremiah Hurley & Neil Buckley & Kate Cuff & Mita Giacomini & David Cameron, 2009. "Preferences over the Fair Division of Goods: Information, Good, and Sample Effects in a Health Context," Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis Working Paper Series 2009-01, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA), McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
  • Handle: RePEc:hpa:wpaper:200901

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First version, 2009
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hole, Arne Risa, 2008. "Modelling heterogeneity in patients' preferences for the attributes of a general practitioner appointment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 1078-1094, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Distributive justice; equity; resource allocation; health care;

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:hpa:wpaper:200901. 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: (Lyn Sauberli). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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.

    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.