Invisible Inequality Leads to Punishing the Poor and Rewarding the Rich
74 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2017
Date Written: August 2016
Four experiments examine how lack of awareness of inequality affect behavior towards the rich and poor. Participants who became aware that wealthy individuals donated a smaller percentage of their income switched from rewarding the wealthy to rewarding the poor. Participants who played a public goods game—and were assigned incomes reflective of the U.S. income distribution either at random or on merit—punished the poor (for small absolute contributions) and rewarded the rich (for large absolute contributions) when incomes were unknown; when incomes were revealed, participants punished the rich (for the low percentage of income contributed) and rewarded the poor (for their high percentage). Participants provided with public education contributions for five New York school districts levied additional taxes on mostly poorer school districts when incomes were unknown, but targeted wealthier districts when incomes were revealed. These results shed light on how income transparency shapes preferences for equity and redistribution.
Keywords: inequality; transparency; cooperation; punishment; reward
JEL Classification: H4; H41; H20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation