Status Inequality, Moral Disengagement and Violence

31 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2017

See all articles by Armin Falk

Armin Falk

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2017


This paper studies the causal effect of status differences on moral disengagement and violence. To measure violent behavior, in the experiment, a subject can inflict a painful electric shock on another subject in return for money. We exogenously vary relative status in the realm of sexual attractiveness. In three between-subject conditions, the assigned other subject is either of higher, lower or equal status. The incidence of electric shocks is substantially higher among subjects matched with higher- and lower-status others, relative to subjects matched with equal-status others. This causal evidence on the role of status inequality on violence suggests an important societal cost of economic and social inequalities.

Keywords: morality, violence, status, inequality, laboratory experiments

JEL Classification: A13, C91, D03, Z13

Suggested Citation

Falk, Armin, Status Inequality, Moral Disengagement and Violence (July 2017). DIW Berlin Discussion Paper No. 1676. Available at SSRN: or

Armin Falk (Contact Author)

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Schaumburg-Lippe-Stra├če 5-9
Bonn, 53113


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