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Noblesse Oblige? Determinants of Survival in a Life and Death Situation

26 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2008  

Bruno S. Frey

CREMA; University of Basel

David A. Savage

Queensland University of Technology; QuBE; CEDM

Benno Torgler

Queensland University of Technology; CREMA; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Date Written: October 2008

Abstract

This paper explores the determinants of survival in a life-and-death situation created by an external and unpredictable shock. We are interested in seeing whether pro-social behaviour matters in such extreme situations. We therefore focus on the sinking of the RMS Titanic as a quasi-natural experiment to provide behavioural evidence that is rare in such a controlled and life threatening event. The empirical results support that social norms such as "women and children first" survive in such an environment. We also observe that women of reproductive age have a higher probability of surviving among women. On the other hand, we observe that crew members used their information advantage and their better access to resources (e.g. lifeboats) to generate a higher probability of surviving. The paper also finds that passenger class, fitness, group size, and cultural background matter.

Keywords: decision under pressure, altruism, social norms, interdependent preferences, excess of demand

JEL Classification: D63, D64, D71, D81

Suggested Citation

Frey, Bruno S. and Savage, David A. and Torgler, Benno, Noblesse Oblige? Determinants of Survival in a Life and Death Situation (October 2008). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 2425. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1284967

Bruno S. Frey (Contact Author)

CREMA ( email )

Südstrasse 11
Zurich, CH 8008
Switzerland
+41 44 380 00 78 (Phone)

University of Basel ( email )

Peter Merian-Weg 6
Basel, 4002
Switzerland

David A. Savage

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

GPO Box 2434
2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4001
Australia

QuBE ( email )

2 George Street
GPO Box 2434
Brisbane, 4510
Australia

CEDM ( email )

Brisbane, 4001
Australia

Benno Torgler

Queensland University of Technology ( email )

GPO Box 2434
2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4001
Australia

CREMA

Gellertstrasse 18
Basel
Zurich, CH 8006
Switzerland

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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