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Inequality Aversion and Selfishness

A project by: Matthew Robson



from 26 donors

This project received pledges on Tue 05 May 2015
Exactly how much do we care about inequality and other people in society?

As a PhD student at the University of York in Experimental Economics, I am passionate about using my skills to answer this question.

Through original research I plan to assess to what extent individuals actually care about income inequality in society, and the wealth of others in relation to their own.

Finding out how much we really care could have a direct effect on the ability to influence policy and government decisions which tackle the issues of inequality in society. 

That’s why we need to know, and here’s why I need your help

The more people I can involve in my experiments the more significant my results will be, which in turn will, hopefully, lead to my research being published. Practically speaking to get the right numbers of people involved, they need to be paid. That’s why I need to raise £2000.

I am Matthew Robson first year PhD student at the University of York; working with supervisor Mr John Bone, and supported by Professor John Hey and Dr Richard Cookson, who are experts in the fields of Experimental Economics and Equity.

The PhD

The essence of a PhD thesis is to provide an original contribution to society and the research community. The difficult part, however, is ensuring the research done is heard by enough people to make a real difference and is of a high enough quality to be able to make an impact in both the academic and non-academic world.

By donating even a small amount you are directly contributing to both of these things. Whilst the money you give will ensure that quality is paramount, you even taking the time to read this, and perhaps even discussing the project, means that one more person has been exposed to the research and hopefully will have taken an interest.

I will be dedicating at least three years to this research. It is an area I find incredibly interesting, wonderfully challenging and it will hopefully have an impact far beyond my own academic curiosity.

All that is left to enable me to enhance this research, and ensure that it really makes a difference, is a donation from you.

The technical bit... The Research

Estimating Inequality Aversion and Other-Regarding Preferences

Inequality is an inherent part of the societies in which we live. However, in order to reduce the levels of inequality in society policy makers need to make tough decisions; usually in order to reduce inequality the total wealth of the society has to suffer.  Therefore, there emerges a trade-off between these competing ideals of reducing inequality and maximising total wealth. This research aims to quantify the trade-off that individuals are willing to make. This is useful to assess individual preferences in these circumstances, and enables a societal value to be established, which can be used to inform policy makers.

In order to estimate exactly what this trade-off is Experimental Economic methods will be used. An interactive experiment where subjects choose between different distributions in society will be conducted. Every decision the subjects make is recorded, and it is from analysing this that the precise values can be calculated. The image here shows a screenshot of work in progress (carefully designed and developed by me on z-tree software, used specially for designing experiments) where the subject moves the slider to determine how to distribute gains in a society; highlighting their preferences for greater equality or greater total income.

As the participants of the experiment play through the scenarios on their screens they know that their actions actually determine their own payoffs when they leave the experiment. They should, therefore, act how they really would in real life, and the preferences that are revealed are hopefully not biased by the attitudes of the experimenter. The aim is to have entirely uninfluenced values, which truly reflect how that individual feels about inequality and other people.

Where will the money go?

- £500 will ensure a sample size of c 50 participants can be paid, to take part. By creating and completing an initial pilot study, with two further experiments, I can complete the work for my PhD.

- £1000 will ensure that a sample of c100 paid participants in the experiment . Adding to the initial work above the increased sample size will be of sufficient scale for me to submit the work for publication.

- £2000 will enable me to double the scale of the original experiments and also to expand the research to explore different dimensions of inequality aversion, and include other important reference points.   This will greatly expand the scope of the work and open doors to publication of papers in several key areas.

-Greater contributions from people who care about inequality will inspire me to develop my research and its impact into areas I can only dream of being able to fund!

-Not a penny of the money will be going toward myself, it will all be directly funding the research.

Find US here




Join with me to find an answer to this question

And in doing so I’m pleased to keep you informed during my research journey. Check out the rewards that I am offering to the right.  But mostly I know that you’ll help because you care as much as I do.

Thank you for considering a gift to my project!

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- In fact, share it with everyone you know as we think it's a great idea, and the more people who know about it, the more likely we are to make this work out.

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