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Altruism, the Samaritan's Dilemma, and Government Transfer Policy

Stephen Coate
The American Economic Review
Vol. 85, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 46-57
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2117995
Page Count: 12
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Altruism, the Samaritan's Dilemma, and Government Transfer Policy
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Abstract

This paper shows that altruism provides an efficiency rationale for public provision of insurance to the poor. The framework is one in which there are rich altruists and risk-averse poor who face some possibility of loss. The government represents the rich and makes transfers on their behalf. With unconditional transfers the poor may forgo insurance and rely on private charity to bail them out in the event of loss. This reliance on private charity has adverse efficiency effects. These may be avoided if the government makes in-kind transfers of insurance.

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