Distinguishing Social Preferences from Preferences for Altruism
44 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2005
Date Written: August 30, 2005
We report a laboratory experiment that enables us to distinguish preferences for altruism (concerning tradeoffs between own payoffs and the payoffs of others) from social preferences (concerning tradeoffs between the payoffs of others). By using graphical representations of three-person Dictator Games that vary the relative prices of giving, we generate a very rich data set well suited to studying behavior at the level of the individual subject. We attempt to recover subjects' underlying preferences by estimating a constant elasticity of substitution (CES) model that represents altruistic and social preferences. We find that both social preferences and preferences for altruism are highly heterogeneous, ranging from utilitarian to Rawlsian. In spite of this heterogeneity across subjects, there exists a strong positive within-subject correlation between the efficiency-equity tradeoffs made in altruistic and social preferences.
Keywords: altruism, social preferences, behavioral economics
JEL Classification: C79, C91, D64
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation