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Efficiency-Morality Trade-Offs in Repugnant Transactions: A Choice Experiment

Julio J. Elias, Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis

NBER Working Paper No. 22632
Issued in September 2016, Revised in September 2016
NBER Program(s):Health Economics, Law and Economics, Public Economics

Societies prohibit many transactions considered morally repugnant, although potentially efficiency-enhancing. We conducted an online choice experiment to characterize preferences for the morality and efficiency of payments to kidney donors. Preferences were heterogeneous, ranging from deontological to strongly consequentialist; the median respondent would support payments by a public agency if they increased the annual kidney supply by six percentage points, and private transactions for a thirty percentage-point increase. Fairness concerns drive this difference. Our findings suggest that cost-benefit considerations affect the acceptance of morally controversial transactions, and imply that trial studies of the effects of payments would inform the public debate.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22632

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