Equity-autonomy trade-off : delightful dilemma or dreadful decision? : an experimental study on choice when core values conflict
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- Master Thesis 
Autonomy and equity are both values of paramount importance in Western culture. Often, they harmonize and complement each other, however, they may also conflict. This is the topic of this thesis, where we study experimentally on a nationally representative sample of Norwegians, what people choose in a trade-off between respecting others’ preference and ensuring equity of outcomes. We use a novel research design where we make use of both an international online labor market platform to recruit workers, and a leading national data-collection agency to recruit spectators. The workers perform an assignment and choose their preferred payment scheme, while the spectators ultimately decide how the workers should be paid. In this way, we create a situation where the spectators must choose to either respect the workers’ preference or ensure an equitable outcome. We find that a large majority choose to ensure equity of outcomes, and that there is considerable heterogeneity across different subgroups. We also find causal evidence that suggests the spectators’ motivation for overriding the workers’ preference is concern for equity. Further, we find that although equity concern is significant to the choice, it cannot fully explain it: a majority of the spectators still override the workers’ preference in the absence of equity concerns. We propose projection of own risk preferences, increased risk aversion under responsibility, and aversion against being responsible for others’ negative outcome as other possible explanations.