Experimental Economics

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 24–46 | Cite as

Parental background and other-regarding preferences in children

  • Michal Bauer
  • Julie ChytilováEmail author
  • Barbara Pertold-Gebicka


Other-regarding preferences are important for establishing and maintaining cooperative outcomes. In this paper, we study how the formation of other-regarding preferences during childhood is related to parental background. Our subjects, aged 4–12 years, are classified into other-regarding types based on simple binary-choice dictator games. The main finding is that the children of parents with low education are less altruistic, more selfish, and more likely to be weakly spiteful. This link is robust to controlling for a rich set of children’s characteristics and class fixed effects. It also stands out against the overall development of preferences, as we find children to become more altruistic, less selfish, and less likely to be weakly spiteful with increasing age. The results, supported by a complementary analysis of World Values Survey data, suggest an important role of socialization in the formation of other-regarding preferences.


Other-regarding preferences Altruism Selfishness Children Family background Field experiment 

JEL Classification

C93 D03 D64 I24 



The research was supported by a grant from the CERGE-EI Foundation under a program of the Global Development Network and by the Czech Science Foundation (P402/10/P103—Chytilová, P402/12/G130—Bauer). All opinions expressed are those of the authors and have not been endorsed by any of the supporting institutions. We thank C. Camerer, A. Cappelen, M. Chu, R. Filer, W. Harbaugh, Š. Jurajda, P. Katuščák, F. Matějka, the editor David Cooper, and two anonymous referees for valuable comments and K. Bát’a, J. Cahlíková, J. Hercher, and J. Palguta for excellent research assistance. We are grateful to the headmasters of the cooperating schools and kindergartens for their support.

The research reported in this paper is not the result of a for-pay consulting relationship, nor do the authors or their employers have a financial interest in the topic of the paper that might constitute a conflict of interest.

All authors have approved the final article.

Supplementary material

10683_2013_9355_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.8 mb)
This file contains supplementary figures and tables(PDF 2.8 MB)
10683_2013_9355_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (21 kb)
This file contains English translation of the experimental instructions(PDF 21 kB)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michal Bauer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Julie Chytilová
    • 1
    Email author
  • Barbara Pertold-Gebicka
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Economic StudiesCharles UniversityPrague 1Czech Republic
  2. 2.CERGE-EI (a joint workplace of Charles University and the Economics Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic)PragueCzech Republic
  3. 3.Department of Economics and Business, School of Business and Social SciencesAarhus UniversityAarhus VDenmark

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