Monday, October 12, 2015

INEQUALITY - Game of Wealth

"In a game of wealth, fat cats who don’t share keep winning" PBS NewsHour 10/8/2015


SUMMARY:  An online game asks players to share some of their wealth on faith that the others will reciprocate.  But each player has the option of choosing not to share, amassing more and more wealth.  In designing a game to test human behaviors that fuel economic inequality, Yale University researchers are finding that the poor stay poor and the rich stay rich.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  So how does this game work?

AKIHIRO NISHI, Yale University:  So in front of you now, you have a tablet.


Akihiro Nishi is prepping me to play an economic inequality game at Yale University’s Human Nature Lab.  In the game, each player is at the center of a small group within the larger community.  And in each round of the game, without knowing what the others are doing, we choose either to cooperate, that is donate 50 units, which automatically double, to each of the others in our group, or to defect and not donate to anyone, just take from those who cooperate.

The game is designed to explore the human behaviors that fuel economic inequality, a hot political issue for several years now, which Senator Bernie Sanders has made the centerpiece of his presidential campaign.

As he told Judy Woodruff in May:

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate:  Ninety-nine percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.  The top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.  That is immoral and unsustainable.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Back in the Human Nature Lab, it was time to recruit players online.

AKIHIRO NISHI:  If you will look behind you for a moment, you will see now the job is actually posted, and all these people are joining from all over the world.

PAUL SOLMAN:  And so here I have 200.


PAUL SOLMAN:  In the game.

We’d each been assigned a certain amount of wealth.  The distribution mimicked the degree of inequality in the U.S.

And I have four other players with 200, and I have one player with 1,150.  Where did this guy come from, Silicon Valley?

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