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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: http://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. repec:hal:journl:hal-00459746 is not listed on IDEAS
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  22. 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.
  23. Roth, Alvin E. & Vesna Prasnikar & Masahiro Okuno-Fujiwara & Shmuel Zamir, 1991. "Bargaining and Market Behavior in Jerusalem, Ljubljana, Pittsburgh, and Tokyo: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1068-95, December.
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  27. BOUCKAERT, Jan & DHAENE, Geert, 2002. "Inter-ethnic trust and reciprocity: Results of an experiment with small business entrepreneurs," Working Papers 2002022, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
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