October 2011

IZA DP No. 6026: Effects of Parental Background on Other-Regarding Preferences in Children

revised version published as 'Parental Background and Other-regarding Preferences in Children' in: Experimental Economics, 2014, 17(1), 24-46

Other-regarding preferences are central for the ability to solve collective action problems and thus for society's welfare. We study how the formation of other-regarding preferences during childhood is related to parental background. Using binary-choice dictator games to classify subjects into other-regarding types, we find that children of less educated parents are less altruistic and more spiteful. This link is robust to controlling for a range of child, family, and peer characteristics, and is attenuated for smarter children. The results suggest that less educated parents are either less efficient to instill social norms or their children less able to acquire them.