NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Ryan Buell

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Working Papers

July 2011"Last-place Aversion": Evidence and Redistributive Implications
with Ilyana Kuziemko, Taly Reich, Michael I. Norton: w17234

Kuziemko, I., R. Buell, T. Reich, and M. Norton “Last-place Aversion: Evidence and Redistributive Implications,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (forthcoming)

Why do low-income individuals often oppose redistribution? We hypothesize that an aversion to being in "last place" undercuts support for redistribution, with low-income individuals punishing those slightly below themselves to keep someone "beneath" them. In laboratory experiments, we find support for "last-place aversion" in the contexts of risk aversion and redistributive preferences. Participants choose gambles with the potential to move them out of last place that they reject when randomly placed in other parts of the distribution. Similarly, in money- transfer games, those randomly placed in second-to-last place are the least likely to costlessly give money to the player one rank below. Last-place aversion predicts that those earning just above the minimum wage will be most likely to ...

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