Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Nature. 2015 Oct 15;526(7573):426-9. doi: 10.1038/nature15392. Epub 2015 Sep 9.

Inequality and visibility of wealth in experimental social networks.

Nishi A1,2, Shirado H1,2, Rand DG1,3,4, Christakis NA1,2,5,6.

Author information

1
Yale Institute for Network Science, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.
2
Department of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.
4
Department of Economics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.
5
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.
6
Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.

Abstract

Humans prefer relatively equal distributions of resources, yet societies have varying degrees of economic inequality. To investigate some of the possible determinants and consequences of inequality, here we perform experiments involving a networked public goods game in which subjects interact and gain or lose wealth. Subjects (n = 1,462) were randomly assigned to have higher or lower initial endowments, and were embedded within social networks with three levels of economic inequality (Gini coefficient = 0.0, 0.2, and 0.4). In addition, we manipulated the visibility of the wealth of network neighbours. We show that wealth visibility facilitates the downstream consequences of initial inequality-in initially more unequal situations, wealth visibility leads to greater inequality than when wealth is invisible. This result reflects a heterogeneous response to visibility in richer versus poorer subjects. We also find that making wealth visible has adverse welfare consequences, yielding lower levels of overall cooperation, inter-connectedness, and wealth. High initial levels of economic inequality alone, however, have relatively few deleterious welfare effects.

PMID:
26352469
DOI:
10.1038/nature15392
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center