22 May 2019
We examine conditions for which positional preferences for voluntary contribution to a public good can be welfare enhancing in a one-shot public good game, where individuals may also enjoy a return from their contribution ranking. We show that positional preferences are welfare-increasing only under certain conditions. We find that when agents’ positional preferences are homogeneous, they overinvest in the public good compared to equilibrium with no positional preferences, resulting in a zero-sum positional race with a higher public good provision. When agents have heterogeneous positional preferences, the overall impact on social welfare is positive when endowments are homogeneous.