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Can Positional Concerns Enhance the Private provision of Public Goods?


  • Douadia Bougherara
  • Sandrine Costa
  • Gilles Grolleau
  • Lisette Ibanez


The social welfare effect of positional concerns over public goods is composed of two parts, a positional outcome and an outcome in terms of public goods provision. When agents have homogenous positional preferences over the public good, they overinvest in the positional public good, resulting in a zero-sum positional race with a higher provision of the public good. When agents differ in their positional preferences, the overall impact on social welfare is positive when endowments are homogenous and uncertain when endowments are heterogeneous. Given that the social loss from position-seeking is lower than the social gain from rank seeking, there is an increase of social welfare. If agents have different initial endowments, positional preferences might still be welfare enhancing as long as the positional loss does not exceed the gain in terms of public good provision.

Suggested Citation

  • Douadia Bougherara & Sandrine Costa & Gilles Grolleau & Lisette Ibanez, 2010. "Can Positional Concerns Enhance the Private provision of Public Goods?," Working Papers 10-04, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier, revised Apr 2010.
  • Handle: RePEc:lam:wpaper:10-04

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
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    5. Frank, Robert H., 2008. "Should public policy respond to positional externalities?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1777-1786, August.
    6. Long, Ngo Van & Wang, Shengzu, 2009. "Resource-grabbing by status-conscious agents," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 39-50, May.
    7. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
    8. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 405-421, March.
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    10. Sara J. Solnick & David Hemenway, 2005. "Are Positional Concerns Stronger in Some Domains than in Others?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 147-151, May.
    11. Ng, Yew-Kwang & Wang, Jianguo, 1993. "Relative income, aspiration, environmental quality, individual and political myopia : Why may the rat-race for material growth be welfare-reducing?," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 3-23, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Murat Birdal & T. Hakan Ongan, 2016. "Why Do We Care About Having More than Others? Socioeconomic Determinants of Positional Concerns in Different Domains," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 126(2), pages 727-738, March.
    2. Sophie Clot & Gilles Grolleau & Lisette Ibanez, 2014. "An experimental analysis from a taking game in Madagascar," Working Papers 14-02, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier, revised Jan 2014.

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