Are Political Economists Selfish and Indoctrinated? Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Authors

  • Bruno S. Frey,

    1. Professor of Economics, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich, Bluemlisalpstrasse 10, CH-8006 Zurich, Switzerland. Phone 41–1–634–3730/31, Fax 41–1–634–4907, E-mail bsfrey@iew.unizh.ch
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  • Stephan Meier

    1. Research Assistant, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich, Bluemlisalpstrasse 10, CH-8006 Zurich, Switzerland. Phone 41–1–634–3728, Fax 41–1–634–4907, E-mail smeier@iew.unizh.ch
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    • *

      We wish to thank Matthias Benz, Colin Camerer, Armin Falk, Ernst Fehr, Björn Frank, Robert H. Frank, Simon Gächter, Lorenz Götte, Reto Jegen, Dorothea Kübler, David N. Laband, David Laibson, George Loewenstein, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Axel Ockenfels, Matthew Rabin, Günther Schulze, Stephanie Seguino, Tom Stanley, Alois Stutzer, Gordon Tullock, the coeditor of Economic Inquiry, and an anonymous referee for helpful remarks.


Abstract

Most professional economists believe that economists in general are more selfish than other people and that this increased selfishness is due to economics education. This article offers empirical evidence against this widely held belief. Using a unique data set about giving behavior in connection with two social funds at the University of Zurich, it is shown that economics education does not make people act more selfishly. Rather, this natural experiment suggests that the particular behavior of economists can be explained by a selection effect.

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