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Discrimination in the provision of social services to the poor: a field experimental study

We use an experimental field approach to understand better the pro-social preferences and
behavior of both individuals involved in the provision of social services (public servants) and the behavior of those potential beneficiaries, the poor. We conducted field experiments using the Dictator, Ultimatum, Trust and Third Party Punishment games, and a newly designed Distributive Dictator Game. With these, we want to understand the traits and mechanisms that guide pro-sociality including altruism, reciprocal altruism, reciprocity, trust, fairness, inequity aversion, and altruistic (social) punishment. We recruited in Bogotá, Colombia more than 500 public servants and beneficiaries from welfare programs associated with health, education, childcare and nutrition. The overall results replicate the patterns of previous studies with these experimental designs, that is, individuals showed a preference for fair outcomes, positive levels of trust and reciprocity, and willingness to punish -at a personal cost, unfair outcomes if against themselves or if against third parties. By using more information about our participants we were able however to explain the observed variations in these behaviors. The results provide evidence that the poor trigger more pro-social behavior from all citizens including public servants, but the latter show more strategic generosity by graduating their pro-social behavior towards the poor depending on attributes of the beneficiaries or recipients of offers in these games. We observed a bias in favor of women and households with more number of dependents, but discriminatory behavior against particularly stigmatized groups in society such as ex-combatants from the political conflict, or street recyclers.

Cárdenas, Juan Camilo; Candelo, Natalia; Gaviria, Alejandro; Polania, Sandra; Sethi, Rajiv
Palabras clave:
Dictator Game, Distributive dictator game, Third-, Trust Game, Ultimatum game