Department of Economics
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
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.
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.