Selfishness and altruism in the distribution of travel time and income

Despite the assumption on the part of most economic models that individuals act out their preferences based on self-interest alone, some models seek to consider fairness, reciprocity, and altruism. This paper empirically examines preferences of travel time and income distributions with and without the respondent knowing their own position in each distribution. Individuals are asked to trade off their own travel time and income for overall changes in travel time distributions and income distributions, with the travel time questions framed in the context of a transportation improvement. Individuals' choices indicated a willingness to forgo alternatives that would benefit them individually in the interest of distributional concerns in both the travel time and income cases. Income questions revealed more exclusively self-interested choices than did the travel time cases. Individuals were found to be more concerned with societal average travel time, then the regional standard deviation, followed by their own travel time. In the case of income, they were found to care first about their own income. The authors suggest that, when individuals' fate is unknown after regional travel time is affected by policy change, they are motivated by risk aversion and seek to reduce variability in outcomes. In the case of income, individual choices are motivated by expected value.


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  • Accession Number: 01496974
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 17 2013 1:35PM