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Income Inequality, Reciprocity and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Analysis

  • Andre Hofmeyr
  • Justine Burns
  • Martine Visser

This paper analyses the impact of income inequality on public good provision in an experimental setting. A sample of secondary school students were recruited to participate in a simple linear public goods game where income heterogeneity was introduced by providing participants with unequal token endowments. The results show that endowment heterogeneity does not have any significant impact on contributions to the public good, and that consistent with models of reciprocity, low and high endowment players contribute the same fraction of their endowment to the public pool. Moreover, individuals appear to adjust their contributions in order to maintain a fair share rule.

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Paper provided by Economic Research Southern Africa in its series Working Papers with number 77.

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Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rza:wpaper:77
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  1. Cardenas, Juan-Camilo, 2003. "Real wealth and experimental cooperation: experiments in the field lab," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 263-289, April.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 3668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Andereoni, J., 1988. "Why Free Ride? Strategies And Learning In Public Goods Experiments," Working papers 375, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  4. Kenneth S. Chan & Stuart Mestelman & Rob Moir & R. Andrew Muller Moir, 1996. "The Voluntary Provision of Public Goods under Varying Income Distributions," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(1), pages 54-69, February.
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  6. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Privately provided public goods in a large economy: The limits of altruism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 57-73, February.
  7. 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.
  8. Chan, Kenneth S. & Mestelman, Stuart & Muller, R. Andrew, 2008. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  9. Kenneth Chan & Stuart Mestelman & Robert Moir & R. Muller, 1999. "Heterogeneity and the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 5-30, August.
  10. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Why free ride? : Strategies and learning in public goods experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 291-304, December.
  11. Todd L. Cherry & Stephan Kroll & Jason F. Shogren, 2003. "The Impact of Endowment Heterogeneity and Origin on Public Good Contributions: Evidence from the Lab," Working Papers 03-05, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
  12. Elinor Ostrom, 2000. "Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 137-158, Summer.
  13. Jeffrey Milyo & Jennifer M. Mellor & Lisa Anderson, 2004. "Inequality, Group Cohesion, and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Analysis," Working Papers 0418, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 27 Dec 2004.
  14. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:103:y:1988:i:1:p:179-99 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. R. Isaac & James Walker & Susan Thomas, 1984. "Divergent evidence on free riding: An experimental examination of possible explanations," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 113-149, January.
  16. R. M. Isaac & J. M. Walker, 2010. "Group size effects in public goods provision: The voluntary contribution mechanism," Levine's Working Paper Archive 310, David K. Levine.
  17. Baland, Jean-Marie & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 1997. "Coordination problems in local-level resource management," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 197-210, June.
  18. Bohm, Peter, 1972. "Estimating demand for public goods: An experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 111-130.
  19. Becker, Gary S, 1976. "Altruism, Egoism, and Genetic Fitness: Economics and Sociobiology," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 817-26, September.
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