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Title: Willingness to Pay for Justice: Evidence from an Experiment on Giving to the Poor

Authors:Christina Fong & Felix Oberholzer-Gee


This paper investigates the willingness to pay for justice using dictator games in which the recipients are real-life poor people and the dictators can purchase signals about why the recipients are poor. The recipients differed according to the reasons they reported for their poverty; some listed substance abuse while others listed disability. Prior research suggests that, on average, people are more generous to recipients who cannot be held accountable for their poverty. Thus, they should prefer to give more to those who are poor due to disability. We investigate whether or not subjects are willing to pay to achieve this type of justice. In our main treatment condition, we gave each dictator the choice between a) splitting $10.00 between himself and one of the recipients without knowing the recipientís reason for poverty or b) paying one dollar and splitting the remaining $9.00 knowing the recipientís reason for poverty. Among other things, we find that about a third of the dictators were willing to pay a dollar for the information. Subjects who purchase the information give significantly more to recipients who report disability than recipients who report drug abuse. The difference in offers to each type of recipient is significantly higher among those who purchase information than in a control group. We also find that subjects who purchase the information give more on average than subjects who do not, after controlling for the effect of having only $9 to divide instead of $10.