Becker Friedman Institute

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Status Inequality, Moral Disengagement and Violence

This paper studies the causal effect of status differences on moral disengagement and violence. To measure violent behavior, in the experiment, a subject can inflict a painful electric shock on another subject in return for money. We exogenously vary relative status in the realm of sexual attractiveness. In three between-subject conditions, the assigned other subject is either of higher, lower or equal status. The incidence of electric shocks is substantially higher among subjects matched with higher- and lower-status others, relative to subjects matched with equal-status others. This causal evidence on the role of status inequality on violence suggests an important societal cost of economic and social inequalities.

Authors: 
Armin Falk, University of Bonn
Publication Date: 
July, 2017
HCEO Working Groups: 
Publication Status: 
Document Number: 
2017-057
File Description: 
First version, July 17, 2017