Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 957–984

Thresholds, productivity, and context: an experimental study on determinants of distributive behaviour

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00355-012-0652-8

Cite this article as:
Ahlert, M., Funke, K. & Schwettmann, L. Soc Choice Welf (2013) 40: 957. doi:10.1007/s00355-012-0652-8


In our questionnaire experiment we confronted students of economics, law and medicine with distributive situations in different contexts characterised by two features inspired by medical decision problems: First, individual threshold values indicate minimal amounts needed by potential recipients of the given resource to obtain positive benefits. Second, recipients differ with respect to their ability to benefit from the given quantity, which indicates the productivity of the resource. Allocations offered in the questionnaire are theoretically grounded. However, respondents were also able to make their own proposals. Well-known allocation rules, but also new procedures, were witnessed. Two multistage principles were most prominent: After distributing all minimal amounts, in a second step one aims for resource-equality while the other principle in the second step demands the maximisation of the sum of payoffs. Besides threshold values and productivity, the acceptance of different principles also depended on the field of study, the degree of scarcity of the resources and the sequential order of situations.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany

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