Fair shares among children : experimental evidence from Norway and Shanghai exploring adults behaviour in a distributive conflict of inequality
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- Master Thesis 
This paper is written as the final thesis of our master’s degree at Norwegian School of Economics, NHH, and as a contribution to “Development of Fairness Preferences” – a large scale experimental project launched by Centre for Experimental Research on Fairness, Inequality and Rationality, FAIR. Our aim through this thesis is to understand why there is such a big difference in inequality acceptance among adults, what might contribute to shape such divergent preferences, and what implications the endorsement of different fairness ideals may have in a larger perspective. By conducting a modified version of “the dictator game”, we studied adults’ inclination to accept an uneven distribution − or to redistribute − earnings between two children who had completed the same task. Hence, the experiment was designed to reveal spectators’ fairness views through their preferred distributive choices. The study was implemented in collaboration with East China Normal University, with an experimental group of 6014 adults and 6014 pairs of children located in Norway and Shanghai. In order to determine causal relationships, we manipulated two dimensions of the distributive situation: the source of inequality (luck or merit) and the cost of redistribution. In addition, the age of the children varied between 5, 9, 13 and 17 years. Our findings suggest that there is a significant difference in the willingness to accept inequality among children in Norway and Shanghai (China). The result is calculated based on the spectators’ average distribution in the two countries. Faced with an identical situation, adults in Shanghai implemented about twice as high inequality (0.542) than adults in Norway (0.262). Neither age nor treatment could be proven to be of any significance to explain this gap in fairness preferences. Further, we adopt the design presented by Almaas, Cappelen and Tungodden (2016) to estimate the share of spectators that endorse the different fairness ideals within the two societies, respectively. We find that Norwegian and Chinese spectators differ significantly in their fairness views, and that these findings may help us shed light on why there are so big variations in inequality acceptance between the countries. Another possible explanation for the large variation is that children in different societies are exposed to different signals from their circle of surroundings regarding how to handle such inequalities, and that these attitudes may contribute to shape the children’s own fairness ideals through adolescence. Thus, the findings also indicate how inequality acceptance in society may be shaped by social learning from one generation to the other.