Ruhr Economic Papers

Ruhr Economic Papers #444

Revealed Notions of Distributive Justice II – Experimental Evidence

by Nicole Becker, Kirsten Häger and Jan Heufer

RGS, TU Dortmund, 10/2013, 64 S./p., 8 Euro, ISBN 978-3-86788-501-0 DOI: 10.4419/86788501



We report the results of a combination of a dictator experiment with either a “social planner” or a “veil of ignorance” experiment. The experimental design and the analysis of the data are based on the theoretical framework proposed in the companion paper by Becker, Häger, and Heufer (BHH 2013), in which we introduce a “notion of distributive justice” by which individuals trade off equality and efficiency. The purpose of the theoretical framework is to explain preferences in dictator experiments by a combination of selfishness and concerns for distributive justice. Most participants conform very well with the Agreement and Symmetry axioms proposed in BHH; we find that for 80% of participants the evidence is very strong. The experiment therefore demonstrates that most participants’ behaviour in dictator experiments can be explained by a combination of selfishness and concerns for distributive justice. We also provide a rough classification of preferences and notions of distributive justice and show that participants’ strength of the sense for justice (Karni and Safra 2002b) can be compared nonparametrically.

JEL-Classification: C14, C91, D11, D12

Keywords: Altruism; dictator games; distributive justice; experimental economics; nonparametric analysis; preference decomposition; revealed preference; social preferences