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When In Rome: Conformity and the Provision of Public Goods

  • Jeffrey Carpenter

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We ask whether conformity, copying the most observed behavior in a population, can affect free riding in a public goods situation. Our model suggests that, if free riding is sufficiently frequent at the start of a public goods game, conformity will increase the growth rate of free riding. We confirm this prediction in the experimental lab by showing that more free riding occurs when players have information about the distribution of contributions than when players know only the aggregate contribution level. As a stricter test, we econometrically estimate the dynamic on which the model is based and find that, controlling for the payoff incentive to free ride, players react significantly to the number of free riders in their groups. Further, conformity is significantly stronger when players have more information about the choices of others.

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File URL: http://www.middlebury.edu/services/econ/repec/mdl/ancoec/0217.pdf
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Paper provided by Middlebury College, Department of Economics in its series Middlebury College Working Paper Series with number 0217.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mdl:mdlpap:0217
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  6. Croson, Rachel & Marks, Melanie, 2001. "The Effect of Recommended Contributions in the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 238-49, April.
  7. Jeffrey Carpenter & Peter Hans Matthews, 2003. "No Switchbacks: Rethinking Aspiration-Based Dynamics in the Ultimatum Game," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0218r, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
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  19. Croson, Rachel T. A., 1996. "Partners and strangers revisited," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 25-32, October.
  20. Sethi, Rajiv, 1996. "Evolutionary stability and social norms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 113-140, January.
  21. Daniel Houser & Robert Kurzban, 2002. "Revisiting Kindness and Confusion in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1062-1069, September.
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  26. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1998. "The Theory of Learning in Games," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061945, June.
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