Cooperativeness and Impatience in the Tragedy of the Commons

26 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2008

See all articles by Ernst Fehr

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Andreas Leibbrandt

University of Zurich - Institute for Empirical Research in Economics

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Abstract

This paper examines the role of other-regarding and time preferences for cooperation in the field. We study the preferences of fishermen whose main, and often only, source of income stems from using a common pool resource (CPR). The exploitation of a CPR involves a negative interpersonal and inter-temporal externality because individuals who exploit the CPR reduce the current and the future yield for both others and themselves. Accordingly, economic theory predicts that more cooperative and more patient individuals should be less likely to exploit the CPR. Our data supports this prediction because fishermen who exhibit a higher propensity for cooperation in a laboratory public goods experiment, and those who show more patience in a laboratory time preference experiment, exploit the fishing grounds less in their daily lives. Moreover, because the laboratory public goods game exhibits no inter-temporal spillovers, measured time preferences should not predict cooperative behavior in the laboratory. This prediction is also borne out by our data. Thus, laboratory preference measures are useful to capture important dimensions of field behavior.

Keywords: cooperation, common pool resource, experiments, generalizability, methodology

JEL Classification: B4, C9, D8, O1

Suggested Citation

Fehr, Ernst and Leibbrandt, Andreas, Cooperativeness and Impatience in the Tragedy of the Commons. IZA Discussion Paper No. 3625. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1214914 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0042-7092.2007.00700.x

Ernst Fehr (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

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Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland
+41 1 634 3709 (Phone)
+41 1 634 4907 (Fax)

Andreas Leibbrandt

University of Zurich - Institute for Empirical Research in Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

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