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The Social Value of Transparency and Accountability: Experimental Evidence from Asymmetric Public Good Games

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  • Khadjavi, Menusch
  • Lange, Andreas
  • Nicklisch, Andreas

Abstract

Transparency and accountability are often regarded as crucial for good governance and the efficient organization of public affairs. To systematically explore the impact of transparency and accountability on cooperation, we conduct a series of laboratory experiments on a variation of the public good game with agents that differ in their action space. While some agents may only contribute to the public good, one (special) agent has the additional option to exploit the existing public good stock. In the absence of a sanction mechanism, we identify a surprising, yet intuitive effect: transparency backfires as special agents extract significantly more resources. Introducing a peer punishment mechanism sustains contributions to the public good if types or actions of agents are made transparent. When actions are not known we however identify a stigmatization effect for the special agent as he receives substantially more peer punishment while contributions by other agents do not change. Finally full transparency of all agents actions creates full accountability as it allows targeted punishment and thereby increases contributions by all agents.

Suggested Citation

  • Khadjavi, Menusch & Lange, Andreas & Nicklisch, Andreas, 2014. "The Social Value of Transparency and Accountability: Experimental Evidence from Asymmetric Public Good Games," VfS Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100512, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc14:100512
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    3. Kube, Sebastian & Schaube, Sebastian & Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah & Khachatryan, Elina, 2015. "Institution formation and cooperation with heterogeneous agents," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 248-268.

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    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior

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