How Institutions Shape Morality

44 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2021

See all articles by Giuseppe Dari‐Mattiacci

Giuseppe Dari‐Mattiacci

University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute

Marco Fabbri

University Pompeu Fabra, Department of Business and Economics; University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics (ACLE)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 28, 2020


We present the results of a randomized controlled trial on the effect of the introduction of formalized property rights on individuals' moral judgments and, in particular, on utilitarian morality. We show that institutions shape morality: being exposed to private property institutions makes individuals more utilitarian when confronted with moral dilemmas. Our result sheds light on a possible factor contributing to the variation of moral judgments across the globe and its geographical patterns, and has implications for the consequences of major institutional reforms — both intended, such as land-titling programs, and unintended, such as the fall of communism — on moral attitudes. A conjectural channel through which property affects morality is the loosening of social ties.

Keywords: property, utilitarianism, trolley problem, morality, moral machine

JEL Classification: K11, O13, Z10, Z13

Suggested Citation

Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe and Fabbri, Marco, How Institutions Shape Morality (December 28, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Postbus 15654
1001 ND
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1001 ND

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

Marco Fabbri (Contact Author)

University Pompeu Fabra, Department of Business and Economics ( email )


University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics (ACLE) ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB

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