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The trade-off between welfare and equality in a public good experiment

  • Agathe Rouaix
  • Charles Figuières
  • Marc Willinger

We report the results of an experiment on voluntary contributions to a public good in which we implement a redistribution of the group endowment among group members in a lump sum manner. We study the impact of redistribution on group contribution, on individuals’ contribu- tions according to their endowment and on welfare. Our experimental results show that welfare increases when equality is broken, as predicted by theory (Itaya, De Meza & Myles, 1997), because the larger contribution of the rich subjects overcompensates the lower contribution of the poor subjects. Last but not least, agents’ behavior in situations of inequality of income, depends on initial conditions. In particular, the decisions of those who become poor seem to express a form of protest against the new distribution of incomes compared to those who started out as poor: from a behavioral point of view, being poor is therefore not equivalent to becoming poor.

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File URL: http://www.lameta.univ-montp1.fr/Documents/DR2013-03.pdf
File Function: First version, 2013
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Paper provided by LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier in its series Working Papers with number 13-03.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision: Feb 2013
Handle: RePEc:lam:wpaper:13-03
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Web page: http://www.lameta.univ-montp1.fr/

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  1. Ken Yamada & Hisahiro Naito, 2004. "An empirical examination of household public goods provision," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 474, Econometric Society.
  2. Lisa R. Anderson & Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2004. "Inequality and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Analysis," Working Papers 12, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  3. Bullock, David S, 1995. "Are Government Transfers Efficient? An Alternative Test of the Efficient Redistribution Hypothesis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1236-74, December.
  4. Andre Hofmeyr & Justine Burns & Martine Visser, 2008. "Income Inequality, Reciprocity and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Analysis," SALDRU Working Papers 23, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  5. Werner Güth & Kerstin Pull & Manfred Stadler & Agnes Stribeck, 2010. "Equity versus Efficiency? Evidence from Three-Person Generosity Experiments," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 1(2), pages 89-102, April.
  6. Kenneth S. Chan & Stuart Mestelman & R. Andrew Muller, 1998. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," McMaster Experimental Economics Laboratory Publications 1998-02, McMaster University.
  7. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
  8. Piketty Thomas, 1993. "Implementation of First-Best Allocations via Generalized Tax Schedules," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 23-41, October.
  9. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  10. Juergen Bracht & Charles Figuières & Marisa Ratto, 2004. "Relative performance of two simple incentive mechanisms in a public good experiment," IDEP Working Papers 0409, Institut d'economie publique (IDEP), Marseille, France.
  11. Agathe Rouaix & Jonathan Maurice & Marc Willinger, 2013. "Income redistribution and public good provision : an experiment," Working Papers 286313, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France.
  12. 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.
  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. 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.
  15. Ruben Durante & Louis Putterman, 2007. "Preferences For Redistribution and Perception of Fairness: An Experimental Study," Working Papers 2007-13, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  16. repec:inr:wpaper:22970 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Cherry, Todd L. & Kroll, Stephan & Shogren, Jason F., 2005. "The impact of endowment heterogeneity and origin on public good contributions: evidence from the lab," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 357-365, July.
  18. Bagnoli, Mark & McKee, Michael, 1991. "Voluntary Contribution Games: Efficient Private Provision of Public Goods," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(2), pages 351-66, April.
  19. Alesina, Alberto & Giuliano, Paola, 2009. "Preferences for Redistribution," IZA Discussion Papers 4056, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  20. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  21. Kenneth S. Chan & Stuart Mestelman & Rob Moir & R. Andrew Muller, 1998. "Heterogeneity and the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Department of Economics Working Papers 1998-04, McMaster University.
  22. Nikolaos Georgantzís & Antonios Proestakis, 2011. "Accounting for real wealth in heterogeneous-endowment public good games," ThE Papers 10/20, Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada..
  23. Brunner, Eric J, 1997. " An Empirical Test of Neutrality and the Crowding-Out Hypothesis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 92(3-4), pages 261-79, September.
  24. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09iatskih21 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
  26. Itaya, Jun-ichi & de Meza, David & Myles, Gareth D., 1997. "In praise of inequality: public good provision and income distribution," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 57(3), pages 289-296, December.
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