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Income Redistribution and Public Good Provision: an Experiment

  • Jonathan Maurice
  • Marc Willinger
  • Agathe Rouaix

We provide a new experimental investigation of the neutrality theorem of Warr (1983), who states ”when a single public good is provided at positive levels by private individuals, its provision is unaffected by a redistribution of income”. Instead of comparing different income distributions across groups as Chan et al. (1996), in our experiment the total group endowment is redistributed after a 10 rounds sequence. We compare an unequalizing redistribution (EI) and an equalizing redistribution (IE), to two benchmark treatments for which the 10 rounds sequence is repeated, either with an equal distribution (EE) or an unequal distribution (II). The constituent game has a unique interior dominant strategy equilibrium. Our data support the neutrality theorem (after controlling for the restart effect): redistribution has no effect on the total amount of public good in none of the tested treatments. However, the analysis of individual behavior shows that ”poor” subjects over-contribute with respect to their Nash-contribution, while ”rich” subjects tend to play their Nash-contribution or under-contribute slightly. Furthermore, after a redistribution, subjects react asymetrically: subjects who get poorer reduce their contribution of a larger amount than the amount of contribution added by subjects who become richer. And it is shown that the latter do not react enough to the redistribution.

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File URL: http://www.lameta.univ-montp1.fr/Documents/DR2009-12.pdf
File Function: First version, 2009
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Paper provided by LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier in its series Working Papers with number 09-12.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2009
Date of revision: Jun 2011
Handle: RePEc:lam:wpaper:09-12
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  1. Sefton, Martin & Steinberg, Richard, 1996. "Reward structures in public good experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 263-287, August.
  2. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Keser, Claudia, 1996. "Voluntary contributions to a public good when partial contribution is a dominant strategy," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 359-366, March.
  4. Matthew Rabin., 1992. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Economics Working Papers 92-199, University of California at Berkeley.
  5. Fischbacher, Urs & Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 2001. "Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 397-404, June.
  6. Anderson, Simon P. & Goeree, Jacob K. & Holt, Charles A., 1998. "A theoretical analysis of altruism and decision error in public goods games," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 297-323, November.
  7. Warr, Peter G., 1983. "The private provision of a public good is independent of the distribution of income," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 207-211.
  8. Chan, Kenneth S. & Mestelman, Stuart & Muller, R. Andrew, 2008. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  9. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  10. Andereoni, J., 1988. "Why Free Ride? Strategies And Learning In Public Goods Experiments," Working papers 375, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  11. Croson, Rachel T. A., 1996. "Partners and strangers revisited," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 25-32, October.
  12. repec:att:wimass:9309 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Why free ride? : Strategies and learning in public goods experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 291-304, December.
  14. Marc Willinger & Anthony Ziegelmeyer, 2001. "Strength of the Social Dilemma in a Public Goods Experiment: An Exploration of the Error Hypothesis," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 131-144, October.
  15. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
  16. Laury, Susan K & Walker, James M & Williams, Arlington W, 1999. " The Voluntary Provision of a Pure Public Good with Diminishing Marginal Returns," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 99(1-2), pages 139-60, April.
  17. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
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