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Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Good Experiments

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  • Urs Fischbacher

    (University of Konstanz)

  • Simon Gaechter

    (University of Nottingham)

Abstract

One lingering puzzle is why voluntary contributions to public goods decline over time in experimental and real-world settings. We show that the decline of cooperation is driven by individual preferences for imperfect conditional cooperation. Many people’s desire to contribute less than others, rather than changing beliefs of what others will contribute over time or people’s heterogeneity in preferences makes voluntary cooperation fragile. Universal free riding thus eventually emerges, despite the fact that most people are not selfish.

Suggested Citation

  • Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2009. "Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Good Experiments," Discussion Papers 2009-04, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:not:notcdx:2009-04
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Public goods experiments; social preferences; conditional cooperation; free riding;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers

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