Public Choice

, Volume 158, Issue 3–4, pp 359–382 | Cite as

An experimental study of the efficiency of unanimity rule and majority rule

  • Keith DoughertyEmail author
  • Brian Pitts
  • Justin Moeller
  • Robi Ragan


Scholars traditionally claim that unanimity rule is more capable of producing Pareto optimal outcomes than majority rule. Dougherty and Edward (Public Choice 151(3):655–678, 2012) make the opposite claim assuming proposals are either random, sincere, or strategic. We test these competing hypotheses in a two-dimensional framework using laboratory experiments. Our primary results suggest: (1) majority rule enters the Pareto set more quickly than unanimity rule, (2) majority rule leaves the Pareto set at the same rate as unanimity rule, and (3) majority rule is more likely to select a Pareto optimal outcome than unanimity rule at the end of the game.


Majority rule Unanimity rule Pareto optimality Empirical social choice Experiment 



We thank T.K. Ahn for careful comments on both the experimental design and the presentation of the results. Bill Bianco, Joe Oppenheimer, Oleg Smirnov, and Jimmy Walker provided useful comments as well.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith Dougherty
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian Pitts
    • 1
  • Justin Moeller
    • 1
  • Robi Ragan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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