• C91;
  • Q18
  • Altruism;
  • Experimental economics;
  • Farm policy;
  • Inequality aversion


One hypothesis explaining the persistence of farm programs in the United States is the public's altruism toward farmers. We utilize economic experiments to identify the motivations of selfishness, altruism, and inequality aversion toward anonymous members of the general population and toward different types of farmers. We find that people are generally less selfish and more altruistic toward small farmers than other members of the population. We also find that (i) people are more averse to inequality in a market-like setting as compared to a nonmarket setting, (ii) there is significant heterogeneity across people in terms of other-regarding preferences, and (iii) experimental choices accurately predict preferences for “real-world” income re-distribution policies that entail giving up one's own money to benefit farmers, but fail to predict preferences for policies that redistribute others’ incomes.