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Public Goods Agreements with Other-Regarding Preferences

  • Charles D. Kolstad

Why cooperation occurs when noncooperation appears to be individually rational has been an issue in economics for at least a half century. In the 1960's and 1970's the context was cooperation in the prisoner's dilemma game; in the 1980's concern shifted to voluntary provision of public goods; in the 1990's, the literature on coalition formation for public goods provision emerged, in the context of coalitions to provide transboundary pollution abatement. The problem is that theory suggests fairly low (even zero) levels of contributions to the public good and high levels of free riding. Experiments and empirical evidence suggests higher levels of cooperation. This is a major reason for the emergence in the 1990's and more recently of the literature on other-regarding preferences (also known as social preferences). Such preferences tend to involve higher levels of cooperation (though not always). This paper contributes to the literature on coalitions, public good provision and other-regarding preferences. For standard preferences, the marginal per capita return (MPCR) to investing in the public good must be greater than one for contributing to be individually rational. We find that Charness-Rabin preferences tend to reduce this threshold for individual contributions. We also find that Charness-Rabin preferences reduce the equilibrium size of a coalition of agents formed to provide the public good. In contrast to much of the literature, we treat the wealth of agents as heterogeneous. In such cases, we find that transfers among agents of the coalition may be necessary to sustain cooperation (regardless of the nature of preferences). An example drawn from experiments is provided as an illustration of the effectiveness of social preferences.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17017.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17017
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  1. Andreas Lange, 2006. "The Impact of Equity-preferences on the Stability of International Environmental Agreements," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 34(2), pages 247-267, 06.
  2. Astrid Dannenberg & Andreas Lange & Bodo Sturm, 2010. "On the Formation of Coalitions to Provide Public Goods - Experimental Evidence from the Lab," NBER Working Papers 15967, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. d'ASPREMONT, Claude & JACQUEMIN, Alexis & GABSZEWICZ, Jean J. & WEYMARK, John A., . "On the stability of collusive price leadership," CORE Discussion Papers RP -522, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  4. Michael Kosfeld & Akira Okada & Arno Riedl, 2009. "Institution Formation in Public Goods Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1335-55, September.
  5. Ananish Chaudhuri, 2011. "Sustaining cooperation in laboratory public goods experiments: a selective survey of the literature," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 47-83, March.
  6. 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.
  7. Nicholas E. Burger & Charles D. Kolstad, 2009. "Voluntary Public Goods Provision, Coalition Formation, and Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 15543, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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