Experimental Economics

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 24–46

Parental background and other-regarding preferences in children

  • Michal Bauer
  • Julie Chytilová
  • Barbara Pertold-Gebicka
Manuscript

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Other-regarding preferences Altruism Selfishness Children Family background Field experiment 

JEL Classification

C93 D03 D64 I24 

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)

References

  1. Adriani, F., & Sonderegger, S. (2009). Why do parents socialize their children to behave pro-socially? An information-based theory. Journal of Public Economics, 93(11), 1119–1124. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almås, I., Cappelen, A. W., Salvanes, K. G., Sørensen, E. O., & Tungodden, B. (2012). Willingness to compete: family matters. Norwegian School of Economics, Discussion Paper No. 24/2012. Google Scholar
  3. Almås, I., Cappelen, A. W., Sørensen, E. O., & Tungodden, B. (2010). Fairness and the development of inequality acceptance. Science, 328(5982), 1176–1178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aughinbaugh, A., & Gittleman, M. (2003). Does money matter? A comparison of the effect of income on child development in the United States and Great Britain. The Journal of Human Resources, 38(2), 416–440. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barr, A., Burns, J., Miller, L., & Shaw, I. (2011). Individual notions of distributive justice and relative economic status. University of Oxford Discussion Paper No. 2011005. Google Scholar
  6. Bartling, B., Fehr, E., & Schunk, D. (2012). Health effects on children’s willingness to compete. Experimental Economics, 15(1), 58–70. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauer, M., Cassar, A., Chytilová, J., & Henrich, J. (unpublished results). Warfare experience during ontogeny increases egalitarian and parochial motivations. CERGE-EI. Google Scholar
  8. Benenson, J. F., Pascoe, J., & Radmore, N. (2007). Children’s altruistic behavior in the dictator game. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(3), 168–175. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bettinger, E., & Slonim, R. (2007). Patience among children. Journal of Public Economics, 91(1–2), 343–363. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bisin, A., & Verdier, T. (2001). The economics of cultural transmission and the dynamics of preferences. Journal of Economic Theory, 97(2), 298–319. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bolton, G. E., & Ockenfels, A. (2000). ERC: a theory of equity, reciprocity, and competition. The American Economic Review, 90(1), 166–193. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bowles, S. (2006). Microeconomics: behavior, institutions, and evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  13. Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (2002). The inheritance of inequality. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 16(3), 3–30. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bowles, S., Gintis, H., & Osborne Groves, M. (2008). Unequal chances: family background and economic success. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  15. Carneiro, P., & Heckman, J. J. (2002). The evidence on credit constraints in post-secondary schooling. The Economic Journal, 112(482), 705–734. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Case, A., & Katz, L. F. (1991). The company you keep: the effects of family and neighborhood on disadvantaged youths. NBER Working Paper No. 3075. Google Scholar
  17. Castillo, M., Ferraro, P., Jordan, J., & Petrie, R. (2011). The today and tomorrow of kids: time preferences and educational outcomes of children. Journal of Public Economics, 95(11–12), 1377–1385. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cesarini, D., Dawes, C. T., Fowler, J. H., Johannesson, M., Lichtenstein, P., & Wallace, B. (2008). Heritability of cooperative behavior in the trust game. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(10), 3721–3726. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Charness, G., & Rabin, M. (2002). Understanding social preferences with simple tests. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 117(3), 817–869. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cunha, F., Heckman, J. J., Lochner, L., & Masterov, D. V. (2006). Interpreting the evidence on life cycle skill formation. In E. Hanushek & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education (Vol. 1, pp. 697–812). Amsterdam: North Holland. Google Scholar
  21. Costa-Gomes, M., Crawford, V. P., & Broseta, B. (2001). Cognition and behavior in normal-form games: an experimental study. Econometrica, 69(5), 1193–1235. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dixit, A. (2009). Governance institutions and economic activity. The American Economic Review, 99(1), 5–24. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Eckel, C. C., Grossman, P. J., Johnson, C. A., De Oliveira, A., Rojas, C., & Wilson, R. K. (2011). On the development of risk preferences: experimental evidence. CBEES Working Paper No. 2008-5. Google Scholar
  24. Evans, G. W. (2004). The environment of childhood poverty. The American Psychologist, 59(2), 77. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Falk, A., Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2005). Driving forces behind informal sanctions. Econometrica, 73(6), 2017–2030. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fehr, E., Bernhard, H., & Rockenbach, B. (2008). Egalitarianism in young children. Nature, 454(7208), 1079–1083. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2002). Why social preferences matter: the impact of non-selfish motives on competition, cooperation, and incentives. The Economic Journal, 112, C1–C33. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2003). The nature of human altruism: Proximate patterns and evolutionary origins. Nature, 425, 785–791. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fehr, E., & Hoff, K. (2011). Introduction: tastes, castes and culture: the influence of society on preferences. The Economic Journal, 121(556), F396–F412. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fehr, E., & Schmidt, K. M. (1999). A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(3), 817–868. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fehr, E., Rützler, D., & Sutter, M. (2011). The development of egalitarianism, altruism, spite and parochialism in childhood and adolescence. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5530. Google Scholar
  32. Fong, C. M., Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (2006). Strong reciprocity and the welfare state. In S. C. Kolm & J. M. Ythier (Eds.), Handbook on the economics of giving, reciprocity and altruism (pp. 1439–1464). Amsterdam: North-Holland. Google Scholar
  33. Harbaugh, W. T., Krause, K., & Liday, S. J. (2003a). Bargaining by children. University of Oregon Economics Department Working Paper No. 2002-04. Google Scholar
  34. Harbaugh, W. T., Krause, K., Liday, S. J., & Vesterlund, L. (2003b). Trust in children. In E. Ostrom & J. Walker (Eds.), Trust and reciprocity: interdisciplinary lessons from experimental research (pp. 302–322). New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Google Scholar
  35. Heckman, J. J. (2006). Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children. Science, 312(5782), 1900–1902. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Henrich, J., Boyd, R., Bowles, S., Gintis, H., Fehr, E., Camerer, C., McElreath, R., Gurven, M., Hill, K., Barr, A., Ensminger, J., Tracer, D., Marlow, F., Patton, J., Alvard, M., Gil-White, F., & Henrich, N. (2005). “Economic man” in cross-cultural perspective: behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(06), 795–815. Google Scholar
  37. Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2–3), 61–83. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Herrmann, B., Thoni, C., & Gächter, S. (2008). Antisocial punishment across societies. Science, 319(5868), 1362–1367. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jakiela, P., Miguel, E., & TeVelde, V. L. (2010). You’ve earned it: combining field and lab experiments to estimate the impact of human capital on social preferences. NBER Working Paper No. 16449. Google Scholar
  40. Leibbrandt, A. (2012). Are social preferences related to market performance? Experimental Economics, 15(4), 589–603. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Loehlin, J. C. (2008). Resemblance in personality and attitudes between parents and their children: genetic and environmental contributions. In S. Bowles, H. Gintis, & M. Osborne Groves (Eds.), Unequal chances: family background and economic success (pp. 192–207). Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  42. Martinsson, P., Nordblom, K., Rützler, D., & Sutter, M. (2011). Social preferences during childhood and the role of gender and age: an experiment in Austria and Sweden. Economics Letters, 110(3), 248–251. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. National Institute of Public Health (2001). 6th nation-wide anthropological survey of children and adolescents 2001: Czech Republic. Google Scholar
  44. Rigdon, M., & Levine, A. S. (unpublished results). The role of expectations and gender in altruism. Rutgers University. Google Scholar
  45. Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R., & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime effects: the High/Scope Perry Preschool study through age 40. Ypsilanti: High/Scope Press. Google Scholar
  46. Sutter, M., & Kocher, M. G. (2007). Trust and trustworthiness across different age groups. Games and Economic Behavior, 59(2), 364–382. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sutter, M., Feri, F., Kocher, M. G., Martinsson, P., Nordblom, K., & Rützler, D. (2010). Social preferences in childhood and adolescence: a large-scale experiment. University of Gothenburg Working Papers in Economics No. 454. Google Scholar
  48. Sutter, M., Kocher, M. G., Glätzle-Rützler, D., & Trautmann, S. (2013). Impatience and uncertainty: experimental decisions predict adolescents’ field behavior. The American Economic Review, 103(1), 510–531. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michal Bauer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Julie Chytilová
    • 1
  • 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

Personalised recommendations