How prosocial are public servants? An Artefactual Field Experiment in Colombia

Sandra Polania Reyes

Kellogg Visiting Fellow Sandra Polanía-Reyes will discuss findings from an experimental field approach where she and her team used specially designed games to better understand traits and mechanisms that guide the pro-sociality—including altruism, reciprocal altruism, reciprocity, trust, fairness, inequity aversion, and altruistic (social) punishment—of both individuals involved in the provision of social services and their potential beneficiaries, the poor.

Are public servants less prosocial than their fellow citizens? Do they misbehave towards underrepresented groups? We conduct a laboratory experiment in the field that investigates pro-social preferences of public servants towards potential and actual beneficiaries of social programs in Bogota, Colombia. We build a sample of 768 provider/recipient pairs participating in dictator, ultimatum and third-party games. Providers include both government and non-government employees. Recipients include both program-eligible and program-ineligible individuals. Our results show that being a potential target for the social services triggers more pro-social behavior in general, but public servants display a more strategic generosity.  

Speakers / Related People
Sandra Polanía-Reyes

  Sandra Polanía-Reyes (PhD, University College London; PhD, University of Siena), a 2017–18 Kellogg visiting fellow, is a visiting assistant professor of economics at the Keough School of Global Affairs. Polanía-Reyes is an experimental economist working at the intersection of development and behavioral economics and prosocial behavior...
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