Do people give primacy to merit when luck partly determines earnings? This paper reports from a novel experiment where third-party spectators have to decide whether to redistribute from a high-earner to a low-earner in cases where earnings are determined by luck and merit. Our main finding is that the spectators assign strong primacy to merit in such situations, and as a result violate basic fairness conditions. We believe that the results shed new light on inequality acceptance in society, in particular by showing how just a little bit of merit can make people significantly more inequality accepting.
C93: Field Experiments
D31: Personal Income, Wealth, and Their Distributions
D63: Equity; Justice; Inequality; and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement