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Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: A preference-Based Lucas Critique of Public Policy

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  • Samuel Bowles

    () (Santa Fe Institute, University of Siena, and University of Massachusetts Amherst)

  • Sandra Polanía Reyes

    () (University of Siena)

Abstract

Policies and explicit incentives designed for self-regarding individuals sometimes are less effective or even counterproductive when they diminish altruism, ethical norms and other social preferences. Evidence from 51 experimental studies indicates that this crowding out effect is pervasive, and that crowding in also occurs. A model in which self-regarding and social preferences may be either substitutes or complements is developed and evidence for the mechanisms underlying this non-additivity feature of preferences is provided. The result is a preference-based analogue to the Lucas Critique restricting feasible implementation to allocations that are supportable given the effect of incentives on preferences. JEL Categories: D64, H41, D78, Z13, C90

Suggested Citation

  • Samuel Bowles & Sandra Polanía Reyes, 2009. "Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: A preference-Based Lucas Critique of Public Policy," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2009-11, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ums:papers:2009-11
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    Cited by:

    1. Bengtsson, Niklas & Engström, Per, 2011. "Control and Efficiency in the Nonprofit Sector: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment," Working Paper Series, Center for Labor Studies 2011:6, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    2. Yu-Fu Chen & Michael Funke, 2010. "Booms, Recessions And Financial Turmoil: A Fresh Look At Investment Decisions Under Cyclical Uncertainty," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 57(s1), pages 290-317, July.
    3. Beatrix Eugster & Rafael Lalive & Andreas Steinhauer & Josef Zweimüller, 2011. "The Demand for Social Insurance: Does Culture Matter?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(556), pages 413-448, November.
    4. Silvia Sacchetti, 2015. "Inclusive and Exclusive Social Preferences: A Deweyan Framework to Explain Governance Heterogeneity," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 126(3), pages 473-485, February.
    5. Samuel Bowles, 2010. "The Coevolution of Institutions and Preferences: History and Theory," Chapters,in: Institutional and Social Dynamics of Growth and Distribution, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Sprei, Frances & Karlsson, Sten, 2013. "Energy efficiency versus gains in consumer amenities—An example from new cars sold in Sweden," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 490-499.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Public goods; behavioral experiments; social preferences; second best; motivational crowding; explicit incentives;

    JEL classification:

    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General

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