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Bargaining by Children


  • William T. Harbaugh

    () (University of Oregon Economics Department)

  • Kate Krause

    () (University of New Mexico Economics Department)

  • Steven G. Liday

    () ("University of Oregon Student, Economics Department")


We study the development of bargaining behavior in children age seven through 18, using ultimatum and dictator games. We find that bargaining behavior changes substantially with age and that most of this change appears to be related to changes in preferences for fairness, rather than bargaining ability. Younger children make and accept smaller ultimatum proposals than do older children, Even young children are quite strategic in their behavior, making much smaller dictator than ultimatum proposals. Boys claim to be more aggressive bargainers than girls do, but they are not. Older girls make larger dictator proposals than older boys, but among younger children the proposals differ much more by height than by sex. We argue that the existence of systematic differences in bargaining behavior across age and sex supports the argument that culture is a determinant of economic behavior, and suggests that people acquire this culture during childhood. We argue that the height differences indicate that forces other than culture, in the usual sense of the word, are also important.

Suggested Citation

  • William T. Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Steven G. Liday, 2002. "Bargaining by Children," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2002-04, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 20 Jul 2002.
  • Handle: RePEc:ore:uoecwp:2002-04

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ehmke, Mariah D. & Schroeter, Christiane & Morgan, Kari & Larson-Meyer, Enette & Ballenger, Nicole, 2012. "Relating Behavioral Elements of Household Food Negotiation to Childhood Overweight and Obesity," 2012 AAEA/EAAE Food Environment Symposium, May 30-31, Boston, MA 123516, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    2. Michal Bauer & Julie Chytilová & Barbara Pertold-Gebicka, 2014. "Parental background and other-regarding preferences in children," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(1), pages 24-46, March.
    3. Daniel Houser & Natalia Montinari & Marco Piovesan, 2012. "Private and Public Decisions in Social Dilemmas: Evidence from ChildrenÕs Behavior," Working Papers 1034, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.

    More about this item


    children; culture; fairness; dictator game; ultimatum game;

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement


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