Working Paper BETA #2018-47

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Title : Preferences and strategic behavior in public goods games

Author(s) : Gilles Grandjean, Mathieu Lefebvre, Marco Mantovani

Abstract : We analyze experimentally behavior in a finitely repeated public goodsgame. One of the main results of the literature is that contributions are initially high, and gradually decrease over time. Two explanations of this pattern have been developed: (i) the population is composed of free-riders, who never contribute, and conditional cooperators, who contribute if others do so as well; (ii) strategic players contribute to sustain mutually beneficial future cooperation, but reduce their contributions as the end of the game approaches. This paper contributes to bridging the gap between these views. We analyze preferences and strategic ability in one design by manipulating group composition to form homogeneous groups on both dimensions. Our results highlight the interaction between the two: groups that sustain high levels of cooperation are composed of members who share a common inclination toward cooperation and have the strategic abilities to recognize and reap the benefits of enduring cooperation.

Key-words : Voluntary contribution, conditional cooperation, free riding, strategic sophistication

JEL Classification : H41, C73, C91, C92.