Experimental Design Details
WHY THIS IS A RANDOMISED CONTROLLED TRIAL::
- To test for the hypothesis of a greater status-quo bias among East Asian respondents compared to Western respondents, we randomize the status-quo distribution described to respondents. Regressing, for each scenario, the Gini coefficient implemented by the respondent on a dummy for the status-quo distribution to which the respondent was assigned to (either being very unequal or very equal), interacted with a culture dummy, would thus make it possible for us to disentangle culturally-varying preferences for inequality from culturally-varying status-quo bias in a double-difference estimation framework. This is one of the key predictions we aim to test.
- To test for the hypothesis that East Asian respondents have a greater aversion to rewarding the "wrong winner", we randomise the framing of one of our scenarios, mentioning for 50% of the sample that there is a 20% probability that the software used would pick the "wrong winner" (who actually performed fewer tasks) and for the remaining 50% of our sample that there is a 20% probability that the software used would pick the "wrong loser". We again aim to compare the coefficients on a treatment dummy (corresponding to the framing used) interacted with a culture dummy with double-difference estimation.
- Although this is more minor since it is not at the core of our main predictions, we also randomize the order of some of our scenarios to control for the fact that the order of the scenarios may prime respondents for subsequent scenarios (as a robustness check, we will thus verify that the coefficients obtained are not statistically different depending on the order of the scenarios to which respondents were exposed).
In more details, the experiment will be held in two parts: respondents making redistributive decisions and the Amazon MTurk workers solving effort-paying tasks.
The respondents' part: The respondents will fill up a questionnaire. This questionnaire first asks for informed consent and lets respondents choose not to participate, excluding respondents who are younger than 18 years old. It then proceeds to ask respondents a series of questions to elicit their beliefs on the role of the state in redistribution, the role of personal effort and luck/privilege in determining success, individualism versus collectivism, perception of own success, social desirability bias and perception of own merit.
The questionnaire then proceeds to describe scenarios opposing two workers, indicate the way those two workers will be paid in the absence of redistribution, and ask the respondent to indicate whether he/she wishes the researchers to distribute rewards differently between those two workers. Those scenarios include:
1) Whether the source of an unequal original distribution is random luck or the numbers of tasks completed
2) One of the workers is randomly selected to have a training before the task and completed more tasks.
3) One of the workers is randomly selected to have a hindrance during the task and completed less tasks.
4) A trade-off where redistributing to the worker who completed less (thus less deserving) has a benefit (it increases the total rewards to be divided between the two workers).
5) A “wrong” winner or loser (respectively completed fewer or more tasks) is picked with some probability ; 50% of the sample will be assigned to a framing making the "wrong winner" idea salient, while the rest will be assigned to a framing making the "wrong loser" salient.
6) One of the workers did better, but only marginally.
Respondents will be randomly separated into two different status-quo scenarios: .for 50% of respondents, the distribution of rewards between the two workers in the absence of redistribution will be a 12-0 split, while for the remaining 50% of the sample, it will be a 7-5 split to test for a culturally-varying status quo bias.
The workers will be asked to complete some data entry task for which they will need to search some information on Wikipedia (they will be asked to collect the date of birth and of death of a series of famous individuals which has already been compiled by Gergaud et al (2016), making it possible to verify whether workers correctly completed the tasks, as well as additional information such as parental occupation of those famous individuals and the word count of the English language Wikipedia article on the famous person. After reading the consent form – for which they can take their time, and this will be ensured by a using a timer so that the button to submit answers to the consent form only appear after enough time has been given to them -, the workers will be given 30 minutes to complete as many tasks as possible.
Each worker will be paid a participation fee consistent with the US federal minimum wage given task length. In addition to this participation fee, the workers will be paid rewards up to three times as large as the participation fee, determined by the responses to the questionnaire. When making redistribution choices, survey respondents will thus be asked to indicate how they wish that those rewards be divided between the two workers described in the scenarios.
The workers will be told that the bonus might depend on how many tasks they correctly perform, but not precisely how: an initial payment is decided given their performance, or given the outcome of a random lottery, and then the final amount they will receive is decided by a third-person spectator who can choose to redistribute between them. They will also be told that they could be randomly selected to receive a short tutoring before the tasks or required to complete a small irrelevant task during the 30 minutes allocated to the assessed tasks, which might affect their final numbers of tasks completed (either positively or negatively), and the third-person spectator will know about their circumstances. The tasks to be performed will be the same for all workers apart from this.
The tasks will be posted to Amazon MTurk and individual Amazon MTurk workers will be able to sign up for the tasks. They will be informed explicitly before the task about their payment: they will first receive a base compensation corresponding to the minimum wage requirement given the task's length, and then will receive a bonus that is decided by a third-person spectator.
No personal information will be collected from the workers at all apart from their publicly available amazon worker ID, which we will use only for the purpose of paying bonuses.