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Inequality-Seeking Punishment

Daniel Houser () and Erte Xiao ()

No 1009, Working Papers from George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science

Abstract: Inequality aversion is a key motive for punishment, with many prominent studies suggesting people use punishment to reduce or eliminate inequality. Punishment in laboratory games, however, is nearly always designed to promote equality (e.g., rejections in standard ultimatum games) and the marginal cost of punishment is typically non-trivially positive. As a consequence, individual preferences over punishment outcomes remain largely uninformed. We here report data from a laboratory experiment using dictator games. We find that when people are treated unfairly they systematically prefer to use punishment to create advantageous inequality. Our results shed new light on human preferences over punishment outcomes, and have important implications for the design of mechanisms to deter misconduct.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp, nep-gth and nep-mic
Date: 2009-08
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Journal Article: Inequality-seeking punishment (2010) Downloads
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