Other-regarding preferences are important for establishing and maintaining cooperative outcomes. In this paper, we study how the formation of other-regarding preferences during childhood is related to parental background. Our subjects, aged 4–12 years, are classified into other-regarding types based on simple binary-choice dictator games. The main finding is that the children of parents with low education are less altruistic, more selfish, and more likely to be weakly spiteful. This link is robust to controlling for a rich set of children’s characteristics and class fixed effects. It also stands out against the overall development of preferences, as we find children to become more altruistic, less selfish, and less likely to be weakly spiteful with increasing age. The results, supported by a complementary analysis of World Values Survey data, suggest an important role of socialization in the formation of other-regarding preferences.
Experimental Economics, 2014, Vol 17, Issue 1, p. 24-46
Other-regarding preferences; Altruism; Selfishness; Children; Family background; Field experiment