Discussion paper

DP5368 The Role of Equality and Efficiency in Social Preferences

Engelmann and Strobel (AER 2004) question the relevance of inequity aversion in simple dictator game experiments claiming that a combination of a preference for efficiency and a Rawlsian motive for helping the least well-off is more important than inequity aversion. We show that these results are partly based on a strong subject pool effect. The participants of the E&S experiments were undergraduate students of economics and business administration who self-selected into their field of study (economics) and learned in the first semester that efficiency is desirable. We show that for non-economists the preference for efficiency is much less pronounced. We also find a non-negligible gender effect indicating that women are more egalitarian than men. However, perhaps surprisingly, the dominance of equality over efficiency is unrelated to political attitudes.


Schmidt, K, E Fehr and M Naef (2005), ‘DP5368 The Role of Equality and Efficiency in Social Preferences‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 5368. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp5368