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Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: Causal Evidence of Non-Separability

  • Marco Faravelli
  • Luca Stanca

This paper provides a direct test of the hypothesis that agents' objective functions are non-separable in economic incentives and social preferences. We study experimentally fixed-prize contests using a 2x2 design, varying orthogonally the degree of competition of the incentive mechanism (all-pay auction vs. lottery) and the presence or absence of social returns to bidding (rent seeking vs. public good). The results indicate that either stronger competition or positive social returns have positive main effects on bids. In addition, we find a negative interaction between the all-pay auction mechanism and the public good environment, leading us to reject separability. This finding provides causal evidence that economic incentives may negatively affect pro-social behavior.

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Paper provided by University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 250.

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Length: 32
Date of creation: Jul 2013
Date of revision: Jul 2013
Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:250
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  1. Dan Kovenock & Michael R. Baye & Casper G. de Vries, 1996. "The all-pay auction with complete information (*)," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 291-305.
  2. Luca Corazzini & Marco Faravelli & Luca Stanca, 2007. "A Prize to Give for: An Experiment on Public Good Funding Mechanisms," CRIEFF Discussion Papers 0714, Centre for Research into Industry, Enterprise, Finance and the Firm.
  3. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
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  6. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:121:y:2006:i:2:p:747-782 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Richard Cornes & Roger Hartley, 2005. "Asymmetric contests with general technologies," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 923-946, November.
  8. S. Bowles & S. Polania-Reyes., 2013. "Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: Substitutes or Complements?," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  10. Andreas Lange & Craig Landry & John List & Michael Price & Nicholas Rupp, 2006. "Toward an understanding of the economics of charity: Evidence from a field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00292, The Field Experiments Website.
  11. Andreas Lange & John List & Michael Price, 2007. "Using lotteries to finance public goods: theory and experimental evidence," Artefactual Field Experiments 00381, The Field Experiments Website.
  12. Konrad, Kai A., 2009. "Strategy and Dynamics in Contests," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199549603, July.
  13. John Morgan, 2000. "Financing Public Goods by Means of Lotteries," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(4), pages 761-784.
  14. John Duffy & Alexander Matros, 2011. "All-Pay Auctions vs. Lotteries as Provisional Fixed-Prize Fundraising Mechanisms," Working Papers 448, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2013.
  15. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782.
  16. Douglas Davis & Robert Reilly, 1998. "Do too many cooks always spoil the stew? An experimental analysis of rent-seeking and the role of a strategic buyer," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 89-115, April.
  17. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
  18. Faravelli, Marco & Stanca, Luca, 2012. "Single versus multiple-prize all-pay auctions to finance public goods: An experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 677-688.
  19. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
  20. Emmanuel Dechenaux & Dan Kovenock & Roman Sheremeta, 2012. "A Survey of Experimental Research on Contests, All-Pay Auctions and Tournaments," Working Papers 12-22, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  21. John Morgan & Martin Sefton, 2000. "Funding Public Goods with Lotteries: Experimental Evidence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(4), pages 785-810.
  22. Douglas D. Davis & Laura Razzolini & Robert Reilly & Bart J. Wilson, 2003. "Raising Revenues for Charity: Auctions versus Lotteries," Working Papers 0301, VCU School of Business, Department of Economics.
  23. Jacob K. Goeree & Emiel Maasland & Sander Onderstal & John L. Turner, 2005. "How (Not) to Raise Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 897-926, August.
  24. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  25. Arthur J.H.C. Schram & Sander Onderstal, 2009. "Bidding To Give: An Experimental Comparison Of Auctions For Charity," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(2), pages 431-457, 05.
  26. Roman M. Sheremeta & William A. Masters & Timothy N. Cason, 2012. "Winner-Take-All and Proportional-Prize Contests: Theory and Experimental Results," Working Papers 12-04, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  27. Uri Gneezy & Stephan Meier & Pedro Rey-Biel, 2011. "When and Why Incentives (Don't) Work to Modify Behavior," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 191-210, Fall.
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