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Fairness and the Moral Mind

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FAIR (Fairness and the Moral Mind)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

The project provides a comprehensive and groundbreaking approach to the analysis of the moral mind and inequality acceptance.
The first part of the project will provide a novel study of how the moral ideals of personal responsibility and individual freedom, which are fundamental values in most liberal societies, shape inequality acceptance. It will also provide the first experimental study of how people draw the moral circle, which is at the heart of the most pressing policy challenges facing the world today and strongly related to the question of global fairness. The second part will study how social institutions shape inequality acceptance and how it develops in childhood and adolescence, by providing two unique international studies of inequality acceptance in 60 countries across the world.
These studies will provide novel insights on the distributive behavior of nationally representative samples of adults and children and on the cultural transmission of moral preferences in society. The project is rooted in behavioral and experimental economics, but will also draw on insights from other social sciences and philosophy. It will develop novel experimental paradigms to study the moral mind and the nature of inequality acceptance, including incentivized experiments on nationally representative populations, and combine structural and non-parametric empirical analysis with theory development. Taken together, the project represents a unique study of inequality acceptance in the social sciences that will address an important knowledge gap in the literature on inequality.
The project has made significant progress on all subprojects, where the main focus has been on the design and piloting of the various subprojects, especially on designing the planned large-scale international studies. As part of this work, we have made research travels to research partners across the world and have arranged the first FAIR Young Scholar conference together with University of California, San Diego in March 2019 and the first FAIR Conference together with the University of Chicago in June 2019. The project has, as planned, involved collaboration with a number of leading international scholars (Shachar Kariv, Uri Gneezy, John List, Matthew Rabin), and the project has hosted a number of promising younger scholars (Felix Chopra, Eugen Dimant, Julie Chytilova, Michal Bauer, Chris Roth).
The first part of the project will complement and enrich the normative literature on inequality and fairness in economics, political science, and philosophy, by providing a comprehensive study of the empirical relevance of existing theories of justice. Second, it will provide new insights to the growing literature in behavioral economics and psychology that has studied how our moral motivation shapes distributive behavior and inequality acceptance.
It will furthermore, study the idea of personal responsibility in important economic environments that have yet not been addressed in the literature, including when there is an unlevel playing field, when there is competition and cooperation, and when others have intentionally influenced our choices. Further, the project will introduce new dimensions to the study of the moral mind, by investigating how our concern for individual freedom and how we draw the moral circle shape our ideas of fair and unfair inequalities. The study of individual freedom will also complement the vast normative literature on paternalism by providing the first set of experimental evidence on people’s
paternalistic preferences.

The second part of the research project will also contribute to several literatures. First, it will contribute to the important literature in economics and sociology on endogenous preferences, by providing unique large-scale evidence on how inequality acceptance and a concern for individual freedom vary across the world and, thus, across different institutional contexts. The study will also complement the existing influential theoretical literature in political economy that has studied multiple equilibria models where beliefs about the sources of inequality may interact with political institutions and determine the overall level of inequality in a society.
Finally, the project will contribute to the literature on moral development in children, which for a long time has been a major topic in psychology and in recent years has gained significant attention among economists.