Who Wants a Privilege? Voting on Equal Opportunity in Contests (2016) [Job Market Paper]
Surveys in the United States and Europe often suggest widespread support for policies that promulgate equality of opportunity. Yet less is known about the political establishment of equal opportunity by popular demand. How do citizens decide between policies with real consequences for their own opportunity compared to the opportunity of others? This laboratory and online synchronous experiment studies contestation as one source of political preferences for equal opportunity. It develops and tests a theory on the interaction between strategic incentives in contests with political decision making on contests; in the experiment contestants vote on the distribution of the capacity to compete, an equal, and an unequal one prior to a competition. The theory suggests a vote choice strongly contingent on the availability of information about politically created privileges. With political uncertainty selfish behavior in competition can be electorally self-defeating: privileged voters choose equality but the underprivileged maintain inequality of chances. The paper finds evidence for the theory; it suggests therefore a non-normative explanation for expressed preferences for equal opportunity: strategic sensitivity to (social) competition.
Reference-Dependence and Diminishing Marginal Sensitivity in Distributive Choices (2016)
How does the reliance on benchmarks in judgment and decision making affect redistributive choices? The relevant literature on prospect theory in redistribution focuses exclusively on loss aversion around the status quo: citizens are opposed to redistribution because the loss for paying taxes weighs heavier than the gain of the transfer recipients. This interactive survey experiment however suggests an alternative view, making three contributions. (1) Other reference points, especially expectations on “due” wealth are leading benchmarks for income transfers. In fact, loss aversion against disappointment of the poor can lead to more redistribution towards the poor; (2) Not only loss aversion, but diminishing marginal sensitivity explains redistribution; remedying “small” disappointments motivates more action on behalf of the poor than large ones; (3) it includes a graphical interactive feature using constrained choices, subjects have to acknowledge trade-offs in their answers, and employs an interactive, incentivized, “lab-in the internet” treatment, where respondents played a redistribution game in real time.
Institutions making Pride: Electoral Systems and the two Faces of Patriotism (2015)
How do electoral politics affect nationalistic moods across countries? While there is a proliferation of suggested social and psychological drivers behind nationalistic policies- cultural chauvinism, diversion from inequality and emotional compensation – less is known on systematic institutional factors affecting the drivers of nationalism. This article presents novel theory and evidence linking electoral systems to significant variation of emotional national attachment between nations and over time. Employing multilevel models, the article shows how electoral institutions both condition citizens’ definition of national identity and also motivate national sentiment, through electoral incentives for political competition, subsequent policy and the maintenance of socio-economic inequality. The article also presents novel instrumental variables for causal identification of electoral systems.
Working Papers / Work in Progress
Countervailing Effects of Household Credit Finance on Partisan Moods (2014)
The Extremist’s Dilemma: Projection Bias and Ideological Commitment. A Field Experiment. (2016)
Spoiling Gifts. Temptation and Citizen-Elite Interaction. Evidence from a Field in the Lab Experiment.(2016)