Beyond the homo oeconomicus.
A critical analysis of the inequality aversion hypothesis.
The article deals with the study of individual attitudes towards inequality and in particular the presence of possible forms of aversion against it. The research in this field share the rejection of the homo oeconomicus hypothesis and ranges from laboratory experiments – typical in behavioural economics – to the empirical studies of welfare economics and those more recent based on happiness and life satisfaction data. Despite significant differences, both the experimental and the empirical evidence show that the inequality aversion hypothesis is feasible. Some subjects are willing to give up their material reward in order to move in the direction of a more equal society whether in presence of disadvantageous or advantageous inequality. This evidence raises a question: why do high real inequalities coexist with widespread forms of aversion to them? Several possible answers exist. However, particularly relevant is the idea that the analysis of individual attitudes towards inequality cannot be focused only on the results – like all the experiments and the empirical studies do–. The procedures that lead to a certain result need to be taken into account in order to complete the analysis. Due to their consideration the more general hypothesis of inequity aversion could be put forward instead of the inequality aversion one.