Scientific Workshop


The Role of Social Norms and Preferences in Overcoming Undersupply of Public Goods: New Developments in Empirical and Theoretical Research

Undersupply of public goods is a serious problem in different fields. This problem is evoked by the nature of public goods, which is characterized by non-excludability of and non-rivalry in the consumption of public goods. Due to these characteristics, free-rider incentives are immanent to the voluntary provision of public goods and individual agents will not supply them at a socially efficient level. As long as such public goods are concerned that exert effects exclusively on a local scale, national or regional governmental intervention can (partly) overcome undersupply. The government can take the role of the provider itself, can implement regulations for the supply or preservation of resources, or it can give incentives for the voluntary provision of public goods. Among the instruments to generate such incentives are subsidies, e.g. taking the form of an income tax refund for expenses on public good provision.

More challenging than attaining a provision of local or national public goods in a way that maximizes social welfare is the respective provision of international or global public goods. Such goods generate effects that spill over national boundaries, which induces free-rider incentives on an international scale. One of the most prominent examples of such a global public good is climate change mitigation. Since mitigation projects are not free of charge, agents prefer to take a free- or easy-ride on others’ mitigation efforts and thus constitute the undersupply-problem. As long as no central governmental authority exists globally, socially efficient provision of such public goods cannot be enforced internationally.

Of particular interest of this workshop is that the behavior of involved actors, both of governmental decision makers and private agents, is not only influenced by their pursuit of material or pecuniary well-being, but also by the social context via social norms and social preferences. There is still much scope for research, e.g. on the reasons why social norms have effects on cooperation and on theories predicting these effects. A better understanding of the functioning of social norms will help to design better policies to establish such norms in a welfare-enhancing way to improve public good provision. The workshop will take empirical and theoretical findings into consideration with a focus on recent ideas in the context of norms and social preferences.

The workshop aims at bringing together theoretically and empirically working researchers to develop ideas for a better interlink of both methods. This could lay foundations for future research on social norms as well as other topics related to the voluntary provision of public goods.

The workshop will take place on 09. and 10. October 2019.


Please click here for the Workshop's programme.


This event is supported by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung.



This workshop is jointly organized by Prof. Dr. Dirk Rübbelke of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Buchholz of the University of Regensburg and Dr. Christiane Reif of the ZEW Mannheim.

Further information will follow soon.

For further questions please contact:

Dirk [dot] Ruebbelkeatvwl [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de (Prof. Dr. Dirk Rübbelke)

Sebastian [dot] Otteatvwl [dot] tu-freiberg [dot] de (Sebastian Otte)