Fairness and Family Background

28 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2015

See all articles by Ingvild Almås

Ingvild Almås

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES)

Alexander W. Cappelen

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Erik Sorensen

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Bertil Tungodden

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 20, 2015

Abstract

Fairness preferences fundamentally affect individual behavior and play an important role in shaping social and political institutions. However, people differ both with respect to what they view as fair and with respect to how much weight they attach to fairness considerations. In this paper, we study the role of family background in explaining these heterogeneities in fairness preferences. In particular, we examine how socioeconomic background relates to fairness views and to how people make trade-offs between fairness and self-interest. To study this we conducted an economic experiment with a representative sample of 14-15 year-olds and matched the experimental data to administrative data on parental income and education. The participants made two distributive choices in the experiment. The first choice was to distribute money between themselves and another participant in a situation where there was no difference in merit. The second choice was to distribute money between two other participants with unequal merits. Our main finding is that there is a systematic difference in fairness view between children from low socioceconomic status (SES) families and the rest of the participants; more than 50 percent of the participants from low SES families are egalitarians, whereas only about 20 percent in the rest of the sample hold this fairness view. In contrast, we find no significant difference in the weight attached to fairness between children from different socioeconomic groups.

Keywords: Family background; socioeconomic status; lab experiment; fairness.

JEL Classification: D1, D3, D63, D64

Suggested Citation

Almås, Ingvild and Cappelen, Alexander W. and Salvanes, Kjell G. and Sorensen, Erik and Tungodden, Bertil, Fairness and Family Background (October 20, 2015). NHH Dept. of Economics Discussion Paper No. 25/2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2677643 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2677643

Ingvild Almås (Contact Author)

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) ( email )

Stockholm, SE-10691
Sweden

Alexander W. Cappelen

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Kjell G. Salvanes

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway
+47 5 595 9315 (Phone)
+47 5 595 9543 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Erik Sorensen

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
Bergen, NO-5045
Norway

Bertil Tungodden

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

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