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The Role of Equality and Equity in Social Preferences


  • Fehr, Ernst
  • Näf, Michael
  • Schmidt, Klaus M.


Engelmann and Strobel (AER 2004) question the relevance of inequity aversion in simple dictator game experiments claiming that a combination of a preference for efficiency and a Rawlsian motive for helping the least well-off is more important than inequity aversion. We show that these results are partly based on a strong subject pool effect. The participants of the E&S experiments were undergraduate students of economics and business administration who self-selected into their field of study (economics) and learned in the first semester that efficiency is desirable. We show that for non-economists the preference for efficiency is much less pronounced. We also find a non-negligible gender effect indicating that women are more egalitarian than men. However, perhaps surprisingly, the dominance of equality over efficiency is unrelated to political attitudes.

Suggested Citation

  • Fehr, Ernst & Näf, Michael & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2005. "The Role of Equality and Equity in Social Preferences," Discussion Papers in Economics 725, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenec:725

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Friedrich Breyer & Mathias Kifmann, 2001. "Optionen der Weiterentwicklung des Risikostrukturausgleichs in der GKV," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 236, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Wolfgang Buchholz & Birgit Edener & Markus Grabka & Klaus-Dirk Henke & Monika Huber & Hermann Ribhegge & Andreas Ryll & Hans-Jürgen Wagener & Gert G. Wagner, 2001. "Wettbewerb aller Krankenversicherungen kann Qualität verbessern und Kosten des Gesundheitswesens senken," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 247, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    3. Friedrich Breyer & Mathias Kifmann & Erika Schulz, 2001. "Risikostrukturausgleich am Scheideweg: Senkung der Wirtschaftlichkeitsanreize für die Krankenkassen sollte vermieden werden," DIW Wochenbericht, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 68(14), pages 213-219.
    4. Markus Jankowski & Anne Zimmermann, 2003. "Wettbewerb ohne Risikoselektion auf dem deutschen Krankenversicherungsmarkt," Otto-Wolff-Institut Discussion Paper Series 03/2003, Otto-Wolff-Institut für Wirtschaftsordnung, Köln, Deutschland.
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    More about this item


    Social Preferences; Inequity Aversion; Efficiency Preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers

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