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American Economic Review: Vol. 100 No. 1 (March 2010)

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Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Goods Experiments

Article Citation

Fischbacher, Urs, and Simon Gachter. 2010. "Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Goods Experiments." American Economic Review, 100(1): 541-56.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.1.541

Abstract

One lingering puzzle is why voluntary contributions to public goods decline over time in experimental and real-world settings. We show that the decline of cooperation is driven by individual preferences for imperfect conditional cooperation. Many people's desire to contribute less than others, rather than changing beliefs of what others will contribute over time or people's heterogeneity in preferences makes voluntary cooperation fragile. Universal free riding thus eventually emerges, despite the fact that most people are not selfish. (D12, D 83, H41, Z13)

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Authors

Fischbacher, Urs (U Konstanz and Thurgau Institute of Economics)
Gachter, Simon (CESifo and IZA)

JEL Classifications

D12: Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
D83: Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
H41: Public Goods
Z13: Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification


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