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Talent as luck? An experimental study on inequality acceptance
Last registered on November 22, 2017


Trial Information
General Information
Talent as luck? An experimental study on inequality acceptance
Initial registration date
November 22, 2017
Last updated
November 22, 2017 1:27 PM EST
Primary Investigator
Norwegian School of Economics
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Luck, talent, inequality, fairness
People are highly skeptical towards inequalities that arise due to pure luck, such as the toss of a coin. In contrast, they largely accept inequalities stemming from talent differences. However, talent may be fundamentally understood as coming about from a lucky draw in the ``genetic lottery." The question arises why inequalities from talent are accepted even when an individual has done nothing to develop her talent. We investigate two potentially morally relevant distinctions between a ``talent" lottery and a pure luck lottery. The first is whether the indivisibility of talent-luck from its owner implies that it is a personal trait with a legitimate claim on the outcome. The second is whether it is the act of exerting effort on a lucky draw that makes talent a more legitimate source of inequalities.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Skarpeid, Ingvild Lindgren. 2017. "Talent as luck? An experimental study on inequality acceptance." AEA RCT Registry. November 22. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2597-2.0.
Former Citation
Skarpeid, Ingvild Lindgren. 2017. "Talent as luck? An experimental study on inequality acceptance." AEA RCT Registry. November 22. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2597/history/23404.
Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The main outcome variable of interest is the experimentally implemented inequality (worker-pair gini) by the spectator.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We run a real effort dictator game with a spectator design. The experiment has two separate parts, where the first is a real-effort task run in an online labour market by workers. We then recruit a spectator who makes a dictator decision (implemented with ten percent probability, as the ratio of workers to spectators is one to ten) and thus may have real monetary consequences for two of the workers who have completed the real effort assignment.

The workers in Part 1 of the experiment will be recruited from the international online market place Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk). We will recruit 400 workers to obtain 200 unique pairs of workers. In Part 2, the recruitment of spectators will be done by Research Now, using Qualtrics as survey provider. We will recruit 2000 US participants who are nationally representative (above 18 years old) on observable characteristics (gender, age and geography).
Experimental Design Details
We run a 2x2 design where we vary: 1) Whether the lottery that determines the earnings is linked to a personal trait (date of birth) or an impersonal draw of pure luck (random participation number). 2) The timing of the disclosure of the draw of luck (based on the date of birth or the participation number).
Randomization Method
Survey randomization into treatment, at the individual level.
Randomization Unit
Individual level
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
2000 unique spectators from a representative sample of US citizens
Sample size: planned number of observations
2000 unique spectators from a representative sample of US citizens
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
We have four treatment arms, where we vary both the personal/impersonal nature of the lottery as well as the timing of the lottery. The sample sizes for each of the treatment arms are the following :
500 spectators personal ex ante, 500 spectators impersonal ex ante, 500 spectators personal ex post, 500 spectators impersonal ex post.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Data Publication
Data Publication
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Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)