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Volunteering a Public Service: An Experimental Investigation

Author

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  • M. Bilodeau
  • J. Childs
  • S. Mestelman

Abstract

In some public goods environments it may be advantageous for heterogeneous groups to be coordinated by a single individual. This “volunteer” will bear private costs for acting as the leader while enabling each member of the group to achieve maximum potential gains. This environment is modeled as a War of Attrition game in which everyone can wait for someone else to volunteer. Since these games generally have multiple Nash equilibria but a unique subgameperfect equilibrium, we tested experimentally the predictive power of the subgame-perfection criterion. Our data contradict that subjects saw the subgame-perfect strategy combination as the obvious way to play the game. An alternative behavioral hypothesis – that subjects were unable to predict accurately how their opponents would play and tried to maximize their expected payoff – is proposed. This hypothesis fits the observed data generally well.

Suggested Citation

  • M. Bilodeau & J. Childs & S. Mestelman, 2001. "Volunteering a Public Service: An Experimental Investigation," Department of Economics Working Papers 2001-05, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:deptwp:2001-05
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    File URL: http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/rsrch/papers/archive/2001-05.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Bilodeau, Marc & Slivinski, Al, 1996. "Toilet cleaning and department chairing: Volunteering a public service," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 299-308, February.
    2. Friedman,Daniel & Sunder,Shyam, 1994. "Experimental Methods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521456821, April.
    3. Bliss, Christopher & Nalebuff, Barry, 1984. "Dragon-slaying and ballroom dancing: The private supply of a public good," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 1-12, November.
    4. 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.
    5. Ledyard, John O., "undated". "Public Goods: A Survey of Experimental Research," Working Papers 861, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    6. Nagel, Rosemarie, 1995. "Unraveling in Guessing Games: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1313-1326, December.
    7. Hendricks, Ken & Weiss, Andrew & Wilson, Charles A, 1988. "The War of Attrition in Continuous Time with Complete Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 29(4), pages 663-680, November.
    8. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, January.
    9. Richard H. Thaler, 2000. "From Homo Economicus to Homo Sapiens," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 133-141, Winter.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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