The Relevance of Envy Freeness as Fairness Criterion

Dorothea K Herreiner, Economics Department, Loyola Marymount University

This paper evaluates how relevant envy freeness (Foley 1967) is as an empirical concept of fairness. Several versions of an indivisible-good fair division problem are evaluated in a survey questionnaire. Participants had to determine the fairest allocations of the objects among individuals with different preferences. Each problem features two allocations that are identical in all aspects but envy freeness. Across all treatments and versions of the problem, the envy free allocation is chosen 3.5 times as frequently as the allocation with envy. However, as is shown, only some these choices are based on a conscious use of the criterion of envy freeness. The relevance of other criteria for the choice of the envy free allocation is evaluated.

Keywords: Fairness, Envy Freeness
JEL Classification: D630, C990

Current Version: January 2007   [pdf]