Public Goods Games, Altruism, and Evolution



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Corrigendum: Public Goods Games, Altruism, and Evolution Volume 12, Issue 6, 1135, Article first published online: 15 November 2010

  • Ingela Alger, Department of Economics, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada (

  • I wish to thank Sam Bowles, Jörgen Weibull, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. I am grateful to Carleton University and to the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Research Foundation for financial support, and to the Stockholm School of Economics for its hospitality during my visits there.


I analyze the evolution of altruistic preferences in a population where individuals are matched pairwise to play a one-shot public goods game. I determine the evolutionarily stable degree of altruism, allowing for assortative matching. The stable degree of altruism is strictly smaller than the degree of assortativity. In particular, if matching is completely random, spite is stable, and a positive degree of assortativity is necessary for pure selfishness to be stable. Furthermore, the stable degree of altruism is increasing in the degree of assortativity, and it depends on the specifics of the public goods game.