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Discrimination in the Provision of Social Services to the Poor: A Field Experimental Study

  • Juan Camilo Cardenas
  • Natalia Candelo
  • Alejandro Gaviria
  • Sandra Polania
  • Rajiv Sethi

This paper uses an experimental field approach to investigate the pro-social preferences and behavior of social services providers and the behavior of potential beneficiaries in Bogota, Colombia. Field experiments were conducted using games including a newly designed Distributive Dictator Game in order to examine traits and mechanisms guiding pro-sociality. Replicating the patterns of previous studies, individuals showed a preference for fair outcomes, positive levels of trust and reciprocity, and willingness to punish unfair outcomes. The results provide evidence that the poor trigger more pro-social behavior from all citizens, including public servants, but the latter display strategic generosity. Additional observations include a bias in favor of women and households with more dependents, but discriminatory behavior against stigmatized groups.

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Paper provided by Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department in its series Research Department Publications with number 3247.

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Date of creation: Apr 2008
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Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:3247
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  1. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher, 2004. "Third-party punishment and social norms," Experimental 0409002, EconWPA.
  3. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
  4. Juan Camilo Cardenas & Jeffrey Carpenter, 2008. "Behavioural Development Economics: Lessons from Field Labs in the Developing World," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(3), pages 311-338.
  5. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162, May.
  6. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2003. "Are emily and greg more employable than lakisha and jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination," Natural Field Experiments 00216, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2000. "Walrasian Economics In Retrospect," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1411-1439, November.
  8. Pablo Brañas Garza, 2003. "Poverty in Dictator Games: Awakening Solidarity," Economic Working Papers at Centro de Estudios Andaluces E2003/50, Centro de Estudios Andaluces.
  9. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  10. 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.
  11. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2003. "Altruistic Punishment in Humans," Microeconomics 0305006, EconWPA.
  12. Christina M. Fong & Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2005. "Behavioural Motives for Income Redistribution," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 38(3), pages 285-297, 09.
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