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An Experimental Study of the Effects of Inequality and Relative Deprivation on Trusting Behavior

Several non-experimental studies report that income inequality and other forms of population-based heterogeneity reduce levels of trust in society. However, recent work by Glaeser et al. (2000) calls into question the reliability of widely used survey-based measures of trust. Specifically, survey responses regarding trust attitudes did not reflect subjects actual behavior in a trust game. In this paper, we conduct a novel experimental test of the effects of inequality on trust and trustworthiness. Our experimental design induces inequality by varying the show-up fees paid to subjects, in contrast to previous experiments that focus on broad cultural or national differences in trust. We do not find robust support for the hypothesis that inequality per se dampens trusting behavior among all subjects; however, we do find some evidence that trust and rustworthiness are influenced by an individuals relative position in the group. Finally, we confirm previous findings that common survey-based measures of social trust are not associated with actual trusting behavior.

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File URL: https://economics.missouri.edu/working-papers/2005/wp0502_milyo.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Missouri in its series Working Papers with number 0502.

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Date of creation: 12 Jan 2005
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Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0502
Note: Length: 35 pgs.
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  1. Charles Bellemare & Sabine Kroger, 2005. "On representative social capital," Artefactual Field Experiments 00006, The Field Experiments Website.
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  16. repec:pri:cheawb:deaton_relative_deprivation is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Bellemare, C. & Kroger, S., 2003. "On Representative Trust," Discussion Paper 2003-47, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  18. Bouckaert, Jan & Dhaene, Geert, 2004. "Inter-ethnic trust and reciprocity: results of an experiment with small businessmen," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 869-886, November.
  19. Engle-Warnick, Jim & Slonim, Robert L., 2004. "The evolution of strategies in a repeated trust game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 553-573, December.
  20. Lisa Anderson & Jennifer Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2004. "Social Capital and Contributions in a Public Goods Experiment," Working Papers 0317, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  21. Abigail Barr, 2003. "Trust and expected trustworthiness: experimental evidence from zimbabwean villages," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(489), pages 614-630, 07.
  22. Lisa R. Anderson & Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2004. "Inequality and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Analysis," Working Papers 12, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  23. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  24. Gachter, Simon & Herrmann, Benedikt & Thoni, Christian, 2004. "Trust, voluntary cooperation, and socio-economic background: survey and experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 505-531, December.
  25. Alesina, Alberto F & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2000. "Who Trusts Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2646, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  26. Nancy Buchan & Rachel Croson, 1999. "Gender and Culture: International Experimental Evidence from Trust Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 386-391, May.
  27. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
  28. Angus Deaton, 2001. "Relative deprivation, inequality, and mortality," Working Papers 275, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  29. Fahr, Rene & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2000. "Fairness as a constraint on trust in reciprocity: earned property rights in a reciprocal exchange experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 275-282, March.
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  31. repec:pri:cheawb:deaton_relative_deprivation.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
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