Inequality Aversion and Self-Interest; An Experimental Approach

My PhD research is concerned with estimating preferences related to inequality aversion, the trade-off between equality and efficiency; and self-interest, the degree to which the ‘self’ is weighted in relation to ‘others’. By using incentivised experiments, both laboratory and lab-in-the-field, individual-level behaviour is observed in decision problems which require distributional decisions to be made. Theoretical models are proposed which strive to better explain individual behaviour, and account for ‘noise’ in decision making.

Interests: Experimental Economics, Behavioural Economics, Social Choice,  Welfare Economics, Development Economics, Distributive Justice.

PhD Supervisor:John BoneTAP Members: John HeyRichard Cookson.


Job Market Paper 

Inequality Aversion, Self-Interest and Oneness: A Ugandan Lab-in-the-Field Experiment (Download)

Preferences relating to inequality aversion, self-interest and oneness (the closeness of connection to others) are incorporated in a structural model and estimated in order to explain prosocial behaviour. An incentivised lab-in-the-field experiment was run in Mbale, Uganda (n=156), with both general population and student samples. The experiment was a modified three-person dictator game, run on touch-screen tablets. Decision problems were repeated (54 rounds) to ensure individual-level preferences could be estimated; using the Dirichlet distribution to rationalise noisy behaviour. Two within-subject treatments varied if the identity of the `recipients’ was anonymous or known. Results find extensive heterogeneity in prosocial behaviour, which is accounted for through individual preference parameters. On average, there is a substantial regard for others with a preference for reducing inequality, rather than increasing efficiency. Oneness is found to have large and significant effects on giving; with distinctions between self-other and between-other trade-offs emerging.

Keywords: Distributional Preferences, Prosocial Behaviour, Experimental Economics, Social Distance, Inequality, Altruism, Social Welfare Function.

JEL Classification: C72, C91, D63, D64, I31.


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