Moving on up: the impact of income mobility on antisocial behaviour

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While the causes for upward income mobility receive considerable attention, the behavioural impact of the prospect of income mobility has been largely overlooked. We design an experiment and a survey to investigate if the prospect of income mobility influences antisocial behaviour. In the experiment, subjects can, at a cost, reduce others’ payoffs and low-income subjects can move up the income distribution. We find that antisocial behaviour occurs more frequently when mobility is not possible. High-income subjects benefit most from the prospect of upward mobility as they are less likely to encounter antisocial behaviour relative to the immobility setting. Mobility by means of effort has lower rates of antisocial behaviour relative to mobility through luck. This is particularly true for low-income individuals who are less likely to engage in antisocial behaviour when mobility occurs through effort. A large majority of survey respondents believe that mobility will decrease antisocial behaviour, predominantly because an environment where it is possible to move up is considered fairer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103686
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Economic Review
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Experiment
  • Income inequality
  • Luck versus effort
  • Prospect of upward mobility (POUM)
  • Survey

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