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Efficiency-Enhancing Signalling in the Samaritan's Dilemma

  • Johan Lagerlof

    (WZB Berlin)

Suppose an altruistic person, A, is willing to transfer resources to a second person, B, if B comes upon hard times. If B anticipates that A will act in this manner, B will save too little from both agents' point of view. This is the Samaritan's dilemma. The logic of the dilemma has been employed in an extensive literature, addressing a wide range of both normative and positive issues. This paper shows, however, that the undersaving result is mitigated if we relax the standard assumption of complete information. The reason for this is that if A is uncertain about how big B's need for support is, B will have an incentive to signal that he is in great need by saving more than he otherwise would have done.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Microeconomics with number 0207001.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: 09 Jul 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0207001
Note: Type of Document - Tex (SWP); prepared on PC; pages: 38 ; figures: included
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  1. Neil Bruce & Michael Waldman, 1988. "Transfers in Kind: Why They Can Be Efficient and Non-Paternalistic," UCLA Economics Working Papers 532, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Veall, Michael R., 1986. "Public pensions as optimal social contracts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 237-251, November.
  3. Johan Lagerlof, 2002. "Efficiency-Enhancing Signalling in the Samaritan's Dilemma," Microeconomics 0207001, EconWPA.
  4. Stephen A. O'Connell & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1993. "Dynamic Efficiency in the Gifts Economy," NBER Working Papers 4318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1989. "Social Security as Trade among Living Generations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1182-95, December.
  6. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 0042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Neil Bruce & Michael Waldman, 1986. "The Rotten-Kid Theorem Meets the Samaritan's Dilemma," Working Papers 650, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:87:y:1973:i:3:p:355-74 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Holmstrom, Bengt & Myerson, Roger B, 1983. "Efficient and Durable Decision Rules with Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(6), pages 1799-819, November.
  10. Coate, Stephen, 1995. "Altruism, the Samaritan's Dilemma, and Government Transfer Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 46-57, March.
  11. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "The Family and the State," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 1-18, April.
  12. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1989. "A Fresh Look at the Rotten Kid Theorem--and Other Household Mysteries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1138-59, October.
  13. Chakrabarti, Subir & Lord, William & Rangazas, Peter, 1993. "Uncertain Altruism and Investment in Children," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 994-1002, September.
  14. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1987. "Justifying Public Provision of Social Security," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(4), pages 674-696.
  15. Bernheim, B Douglas & Stark, Oded, 1988. "Altruism within the Family Reconsidered: Do Nice Guys Finish Last?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1034-45, December.
  16. Lindbeck, Assar & Weibull, Jorgen W, 1988. "Altruism and Time Consistency: The Economics of Fait Accompli," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(6), pages 1165-82, December.
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