School of Economics

Economic status and acknowledgement of earned entitlement

Abigail Barr, Justine Burns, Luis Miller, and Ingrid Shaw

In behavioural experiments, university students in the US and Europe have repeatedly acted in accordance with the notion that effort and productivity, owing to inherent talent or acquired ability, should be acknowledged and rewarded. However, students in Tanzania and Uganda and poor farmers in Kenya did not. How can these findings be reconciled? Did the African students and farmers behave differently because they are African or because they are poor? If we engaged poor Americans or Europeans in similar behavioural experiments would they behave like the American and European students or like the poor Africans? And what about better off Africans - would they behave like the African students and poor African farmers or would they acknowledge effort like the US and European students?

In this Nottingham School of Economics working paper, published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Abigail Barr and her co-authors conducted a series of experiments to address these questions. The experiments involve a four-person sharing game played with either money earned by the participants or windfalls given to the participants. By comparing behaviour across the two versions of the game, they could identify the extent to which participants recruited from any particular population acknowledge effort and productivity. The experiments were conducted in the United Kingdom and South Africa and involved both relatively well off and relatively poor participants. In both locations they found that relatively well-off participants tended to acknowledge effort, while the relatively poor did not. They concluded that the tendency to acknowledge and reward effort and productivity is associated with an individual's relative economic status within his or her society and not with the society to which he or she belongs.

Forthcoming Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, “Economic status and acknowledgement of earned entitlement” by Abigail Barr, Justine Burns, Luis Miller, and Ingrid Shaw


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Posted on Wednesday 22nd July 2015

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