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Jeffrey Carpenter

Department of Economics
Middlebury College

Who cares if I care about you? Field experimental evidence on the external validity of social preferences

October 26, 2007
Lecture Hall 8, 4:00 PN

Abstract

Behavioral scientists have been collecting data on social preferences (caring about the payoffs achieved by reference agents in addition to one’s own payoff) using economic experiments for more than two decades. However, so far, this data that comes mostly from university labs has not produced reasons for other practitioners to pay attention. Although it may be interesting if students are altruistic, reciprocal or inequality averse, and while moving to the field to discover whether your grandmother displayed these preferences is slightly more interesting, the way forward is to show that outcomes that matter (e.g., productivity) vary with the population distribution of social preference. We will discuss field data linking social preferences to fisherman productivity in Japan, truck driver turnover in the U.S., micro-credit loan repayment behavior in Paraguay, and the behavior of volunteer firefighters in Vermont. Not only do ‘regular’ people exhibit social preferences, they appear to (at least partially) determine their behavior in important settings.

Biology

Jeffrey Carpenter is Associate Professor of Economics at Middlebury College. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Massachusetts where he worked with Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis. His research focuses on the use of economic experiments to measure social preferences in field settings. He has also done (or is doing) research on economic development, evolutionary game theory and the use of auctions to raise money for charities.

Readings

  1. Do social preferences increase productivity? Field experimental evidence from fishermen in Toyama Bay
  2. Using behavioral economics field experiments at a firm: The context and design of the truckers and turnover project

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