Hobo Economicus

Originally published in The Economic Journal

The central implication of maximising behaviour amid competition is that rates of return tend toward equality. We test that implication in a market whose participants have the traits that behavioural economics suggests should make it hardest to find evidence of maximisation: the market for panhandling at Metrorail stations in Washington, District of Columbia. We find that stations with more panhandling opportunities attract more panhandlers and that cross-station differences in hourly panhandling receipts are statistically indistinguishable from zero. Panhandling rates of return thus tend toward equality. Extreme ‘behavioural’ traits do not prevent maximisation in this market.

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