How do adults handle distributive conflicts among children? Experimental evidence from China and Norway

  • Date: May 22, 2019
  • Time: 17:00
  • Speaker: Alexander Cappelen
  • NHH Norwegian School of Economics
  • Location: MPI
  • Room: Ground Floor
 How do adults handle distributive conflicts among children? Experimental evidence from China and Norway

How does the way in which adults handle distributive conflicts between children differ across societies? Using a novel experimental design with nearly 10,000 adults and children, we compare how adults in two societies characterized by very different levels of income inequality, China (Shanghai) and Norway, make real distributive choices in situations involving two children of the same age. We document a large difference in adults' acceptance of in-equality among children in the two societies: the adults in China implement more than twice as much income inequality among children compared to the adults in Norway. This finding is robust to varying the age of the children and key dimensions of the distributive situation. Even for children as young as five years old, the adults in China are willing to accept large income inequality, while the adults in Norway largely choose to equalize incomes. We provide survey evidence indicating that the underlying mechanism is that the adults in China, to a much greater degree than the adults in Norway, consider such inequality to be fair. Our findings suggest that social learning may be a powerful mechanism behind international differences in inequality acceptance.

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