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Economic polarization and antisocial behavior: An experiment

Maria Bigoni (), Stefania Bortolotti and Efşan Nas Özen

Games and Economic Behavior, 2021, vol. 126, issue C, 387-401

Abstract: Economic inequality may fuel frustration, possibly leading to anger and antisocial behavior. We experimentally study a situation where only the rich can reduce inequality while the poor can express their discontent by destroying the wealth of a rich counterpart with whom they had no previous interaction. We test whether the emergence of antisocial behavior depends only on the level of inequality, or also on the conditions under which inequality occurs. We compare an environment in which the rich can unilaterally reduce inequality with one where generosity makes them vulnerable to exploitation by the poor. We observe more antisocial behavior when reducing inequality would be safe for the rich. This cannot be rationalized by inequality aversion alone, while it is in line with models of anger as the result of frustrated expectations. Indeed, the rich are expected to be more generous in the safe scenario, but this hope is systematically violated.

Keywords: Expectations; Frustration; Inequality aversion; Money-burning; Punishment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 D63 D83 D84 D91 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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Working Paper: Economic Polarization and Antisocial Behavior: an experiment (2019) Downloads
Working Paper: Economic Polarization and Antisocial Behavior: An Experiment (2019) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1016/j.geb.2020.12.006

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