IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Us and Them: Distributional Preferences in Small and Large Groups


  • Schumacher, Heiner
  • Kesternich, Iris
  • Kosfeld, Michael
  • Winter, Joachim


We analyze distributional preferences in games in which a decider chooses the provision of a good that benefits a receiver and creates costs for a group of payers. The average decider takes into account the welfare of all parties and has concerns for efficiency. However, she attaches similar weights to small and large groups so that she neglects large provision costs that are dispersed among many payers. This holds regardless of whether the decider benefits from the provision or not. A CES utility function which rationalizes average behavior implies altruism in bilateral situations and welfare-damaging actions when costs are dispersed.

Suggested Citation

  • Schumacher, Heiner & Kesternich, Iris & Kosfeld, Michael & Winter, Joachim, 2014. "Us and Them: Distributional Preferences in Small and Large Groups," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 453, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:453

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Michael Naef & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2006. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1912-1917, December.
    3. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
    4. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2005. "Social Preferences and the Response to Incentives: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 917-962.
    5. Andreoni, James, 2007. "Giving gifts to groups: How altruism depends on the number of recipients," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(9), pages 1731-1749, September.
    6. James Andreoni & Lise Vesterlund, 2001. "Which is the Fair Sex? Gender Differences in Altruism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 293-312.
    7. Marc Fleurbaey & Bertil Tungodden, 2010. "The tyranny of non-aggregation versus the tyranny of aggregation in social choices: a real dilemma," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 44(3), pages 399-414, September.
    8. Amy Finkelstein, 2007. "The Aggregate Effects of Health Insurance: Evidence from the Introduction of Medicare," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 1-37.
    9. 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.
    10. repec:feb:framed:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Maurus Rischatsch & Maria Trottmann & Peter Zweifel, 2013. "Generic substitution, financial interests, and imperfect agency," International Journal of Health Economics and Management, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 115-138, June.
    12. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kesternich, Iris & Schumacher, Heiner & Winter, Joachim, 2015. "Professional norms and physician behavior: Homo oeconomicus or homo hippocraticus?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 1-11.
    2. Lohse, Johannes, 2015. "Cooperation at a discount - Will I give away your money?," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113151, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Nelson, Katherine M. & Schlüter, Achim & Vance, Colin, 2017. "Distributional preferences and donation behavior among marine resource users in Wakatobi, Indonesia," Ruhr Economic Papers 690, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.

    More about this item


    Social Preferences; Distribution Games; Concentrated Benefits and Dispersed Costs;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H00 - Public Economics - - General - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:453. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Tamilla Benkelberg). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.