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Efficient Consumer Altruism and Fair Trade

Reinstein, David and Song, Joon (2008) Efficient Consumer Altruism and Fair Trade. Working Paper. University of Essex, Department of Economics, Economics Discussion Papers 651.


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Consumers have shown willingness to pay a premium for products labeled as 'Fair Trade' and to prefer retailers that are seen as more generous to their suppliers and employees. We define a fair trade product as a bundle of a consumption good and a donation. An altruistic consumer will only choose this bundle over its separate elements if the bundle is less expensive. Thus, for fair trade to be sustainable in a competitive equilibrium, an efficiency must be generated. In general, the first-best level of investment (to reduce the retailer's cost or boosts quality) cannot be achieved when it is non-verifiable. However, the altruism of the consumer facilitates a more efficient contract: by paying the supplier more, the retailer can both extract more consumer surplus and increase the level of contracted investment, while preserving incentive compatibility. We provide empirical and anecdotal evidence for the assumptions and predictions of this model, focusing on the coffee industry.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Economics, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2012 15:36
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2014 10:20

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