How Institutions Shape Morality

45 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 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: March 29, 2021


We present the results of a randomized control 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 results shed light on a possible institutional
determinant of the variation of moral judgments across the globe and its
geographical patterns, and have implications for the consequences of
major institutional reforms --- both intended, such as land-titling
programs, and unintended, such as those following from recent historical
events --- on moral attitudes. We discuss two possible channels stemming
from the inherent features of property rights: the loosening of social
ties and the commodification of rights.

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 (March 29, 2021). Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2021-09, Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2021-05, Available at SSRN: or

Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Postbus 15654
1001 ND
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1001 ND

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

Marco Fabbri

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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