Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Yale Law Students Prefer Efficiency Over Equality, Despite Self-Identifying As Democrats Rather Than Republicans By Over 10 To 1

Science 3Ray Fisman (Boston University), Pamela Jakiela (Maryland), Shachar Kariv (UC-Berkeley) & Daniel Markovits (Yale), The Distributional Preferences of an Elite, Science, Sept. 2015:

We compared the preferences of this highly elite group of students to those of a sample drawn from the American Life Panel (ALP), a broad cross-section of Americans, and to the preferences of an intermediate elite drawn from the student body at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB).

YLS subjects were substantially more efficiency-focused than were the ALP subjects drawn from the general population. Overall, 79.8% of YLS subjects were efficiency-focused, versus only 49.8% of the ALP sample. The YLS subjects displayed this distinctive preference for efficiency over equality in spite of overwhelmingly (by more than 10 to 1) self-identifying as Democrats rather than Republicans. In addition, YLS subjects were less likely to be classified as fair-minded and more likely to be classified as selfish than were the ALP subjects. Subjects from the intermediate elite fell between the YLS and ALP subjects with respect to efficiency-mindedness but were less likely to be fair-minded and more likely to be selfish than were the YLS subjects. We also demonstrate the predictive validity of our experimental measure of equality-efficiency tradeoffs by showing that it predicts the subsequent career choices of YLS subjects: More efficiency-focused behavior in the laboratory was associated with a greater likelihood of choosing private sector employment after graduation, whereas more equality-focused behavior was associated with a greater likelihood of choosing nonprofit sector employment.

Science 2

Slate:  Why Income Inequality Isn’t Going Anywhere; Rich Elites—Even Rich Liberal Elites—Don’t Believe in Redistributing Wealth, by Ray Fisman (Boston University) & Daniel Markovits (Yale):

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway famously disagreed about the American elite. “The very rich are different from you and me,” Fitzgerald wrote. “Yes,” Hemingway shot back, “they have more money.” With inequality in America continuing to rise, we revisited Fitzgerald and Hemingway’s (perhaps apocryphal) dispute, conducting a series of experiments designed to pinpoint the differences between the rich and those of more modest means.

The conventional view of America as a classless society has long sided with Hemingway—the only difference is the money. But our results suggest that, at least when it comes to attitudes toward inequality, Fitzgerald is right: Elite Americans are not just middle-class people with more money. They display distinctive attitudes on basic moral and political questions concerning economic justice. Simply put, the rich place a much lower value on equality than the rest. What’s more, this lack of concern about inequality among the elite is not a partisan matter. Even when they self-identify as progressive Democrats, elite Americans value equality less highly than their middle-class compatriots. ...

Regardless of party, the elite donors whose money dominates politics, and the elite officeholders whose decisions set policy, don’t value economic equality. When the American government abjures egalitarian policies, it is implementing the bipartisan preferences of the American elite.

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Mike Livingston wins the Internet today. Brilliant comment, and more or less summarizes every YLS student/graduate I've ever encountered.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 23, 2015 9:30:07 AM

The surprise here is that academic researchers have discovered a conflict between the goals of efficiency and equality. Who knew? The authors are on the verge of a second discovery: that people who place a high value on money are more likely to become rich.

I suggest a follow-up paper on whether people who place a high value on physical fitness and tend to be less obese. If that turns out to be the case, I'm sure we can devise a tax on healthy food and exercise to correct the circumferential inequality. Because equality.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Sep 23, 2015 8:53:47 AM

When I was at YLS one student told me that sex could be divided into the romantic aspect (obvious) and the administrative aspect (whose house to stay at, what kind of birth control to use, etc.) The student further opined that she generally preferred the administrative to the romantic aspect. I concluded then that Yale was a very weird place, and any research done on Yale students is inherently suspect.

Posted by: mike livingston | Sep 23, 2015 6:09:37 AM